Tag Archives: Sci-Fi

William Eubank’s Underwater

I’m pumped that I got to see William Eubank’s Underwater in theatres, because it’s the kind of giddy, delightful escapism that you don’t get on the big screen too often anymore. I love creature feature flicks, love SciFi, love films set underwater, there’s a feel akin to outer space that is just so immersive and enchanting. Throw in Kristen Stewart, who I love as an actress no matter how much hate y’all throw her way, and well this thing seems like it was made for me!

Seven miles down the Mariana Trench, a vast drilling expedition has made a bit to much of a racket and awoken something up on the ocean floor, something big, pissed off and scary as fuck. Stewart and her research team feel the repercussive effects about a mile further up on their rig, and in the first couple minutes of the film, all hell literally breaks loose. This is after a brief, moody and atmosphere setting introduction to Stewart’s Nora, a tough but damaged and fatalistic engineer whose survival instinct kicks in the minute things go haywire, evading extreme pressure, aquatic dementia, claustrophobia, panic and undersea monsters to stay alive along with her captain (Vincent Cassel) and crew that includes T.J. Miller as hysterical comic relief, John Gallagher Jr and Jessica Henwick as their research assistant who brings a sense of warmth and humanity in her excellent performance.

This is a tight, no nonsense B movie that hits the ground running, basically takes place in real time, has some very inventive biology for the creatures that I won’t spoil (there’s a WTF reveal in the third act that gave me chills) and feels like one long extended scene that somehow finds a few moments to actually make you feel for these people. Stewart rocks a blonde crew cut and sports bra, vaguely evoking Ripley from the Alien films but finding her own bleak, badass groove. Her final ‘fuck you’ to the aquatic beasts is a stand-up-and-fucking-cheer moment that solidifies her character as a capable, selfless and gritty heroine. This isn’t going to win any awards but it’s a shining example of the type of thing I want to go see at the multiplex: thrilling escapism, heroes to root for, nasty monsters from the deep places of the earth, a beautiful sense of style brought by cinematographer Bojan Bazelli and wonderfully spooky, cathartic score composed by Marco Beltrami and Brandon Roberts. I couldn’t recommend this enough.

-Nate Hill

Meet-and-Greez by Kent Hill

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Daniel Roebuck’s directorial offering Getting Grace made me cry like a baby. The end result however, is that I was able to chat with one of the nicest dudes in Hollywood.

Now he’s back . . . and he’s in Star Wars. Well, a Star Wars video game, which isn’t bad either considering how much the line between video games and movies are blurring – the gaming experience having been elevated to its current status which is, quite simply, a little like an interactive story. But unlike the experience you have sitting down and watching a film – here you, are a part of the story.

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From the soulless killer, Samson Toulette, in Tim Hunter’s acclaimed dissection of 1980’s teen anguish, RIVER’S EDGE, to his latest role as the irascible four armed pilot Greez Dritus in the highly anticipated video game release, STAR WARS: JEDI FALLEN ORDER (available on PS4, Xbox One, and Microsoft Windows).

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EA and Respawn Entertainment’s STAR WARS JEDI: FALLEN ORDER has already garnered a great deal of interest and the excitement is building for its November 15th, 2019 release. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, game director Stig Asmussen offered his thoughts on Roebuck’s character Greez, “He’s a member of a new species we’ve created. I don’t want to give away too much of his backstory, but like anybody you’re going to find during these dark times, he’s got demons. But he’s kind of like this loudmouthed little guy, he talks real big, he tells tall tales and most of the time they’re not true.”

Roebuck spent a few months working alongside of Cameron Monaghan, playing Cal, the young padawan and Debra Wilson who plays Cere in the game. “We had a wonderful camaraderie, the three of us,” said Roebuck. “Plus, we were performance directed by Tom Keegan who is truly a master director and always brings great insight into the process.” Keegan and Roebuck had worked together before on DEAD RISING 3.

During the performance capture process, the actors donned form fitting body suits covered with reflective balls and performed the game’s cinematic scenes in front of dozens of cameras. They also wore head gear fitted with cameras so that the animators could utilize the footage to animate the character’s facial features by directly correlating them to the actor’s reference video.

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STAR WARS JEDI FALLEN ORDER is on track to become one of the most successful video game releases of 2019. The game is one of a triumvirate of entertainment options being released by Lucasfilm LTD this fall. Its release coinciding with the original program from Disney +, THE MANDOLORIAN and STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER, out this Christmas.

Robo & The Butterfly: A Fan’s Journey Continues by Kent Hill

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Eva Rojano is not your average RoboCop fan. I remember Mark Hamill’s narration of the TV special SPFX: The Empire Strikes Back, in which he states, and I’m paraphrasing here: “that Star Wars has excited a generation to such an extent that the children who have seen the film are motivated to become doers . . . as well as watchers.

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Eva seems to be the modern day personification of this ideology. What began at the tender age of eight, has blossomed into more the obsession. It is now, unbridled creation.  Of course with all artists, we find and fixate on books, movies, comics, fine art, music. These, while they may not have planted the seed, are certainly the fertilizer in which the formation and manifestation of dreams thrive.

Eva’s journey through the wilds of the universe which began with the brutal murder of officer Alex J. Murphy and his subsequent, phoenix-like resurrection as RoboCop, has seen her not only receive friendship and guidance for two of the franchises integral staples; in the form of Nancy Allen (eternally the dynamic and resourceful Officer Anne Lewis) and Edward Neumeier (one half of the creative genius writing team that gave rise to a franchise).

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Under luminous glow and encouragement, Eva has ascended from her enthusiastic efforts in the production of electrifying art and fan-fiction, directly associated with the Robo-Universe, to a place where she now has the courage, just as all artists who have come before her, to step out from under the wing of the movie that has nurtured her dreams, and into the light that is birth of her own original concept and voice.

This current incarnation of Rojano’s prolific creative output manifests itself as a novel entitled: The Black Butterfly. And I was intrigued as ever to learn the story, the motivation . . . the journey behind what drove this fan among fans to dig below the surface of her own creative crust – unearthing something fresh, unique and touchingly profound.

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What was once purely driven by that glorious cinema classic that is part man, part machine, all cop, now transforms into a bold new vision from a creator that has been fostered by the cinematic equivalent of lightning in a bottle – exploding on to the printed page near you…

Xavier Gens’ Cold Skin

Xavier Gens’ Cold Skin is a tough one to pin down. A chilling, dark maritime horror yarn, a weird interspecies romantic triangle and a creature feature all in one, it starts off with a young man (David Oakes) and an older man (Ray Stevenson) alone on a rocky Antarctic island tending to a remote lighthouse (remind you of anything this year?). Stevenson is half mad, lives in a pulverized mess under a mountain of beard and perpetually looks like he just emerged from a week long bender, and we soon see why. Every night after darkness falls, weird sub-humanoid creatures scurry out of the ocean’s depths and lay siege to the rock, particularly the lighthouse where he lives and picks a them off ruthlessly one by one as they climb the exterior. Soon the young man is swept up in this feverish nocturnal routine until he begins to question the motives, history and morality of his colleague, or whoever this dude is. There’s also a female creature he names Aneris (Aura Garrido) who lives with them periodically and… uh…. does other stuff with them too.

I liked this film a lot because it doesn’t reveal everything, even up to the final few frames. Why does Aneris forsake her kin in the sea to live with this sorry drunken prick? Why do the creatures attack in the same way every night when they, presumably somewhat sentient, know full well that these dudes have a sizeably advantageous perch? These aren’t plot holes at all by the way because you get the gnawing sense that the answers are right there in the ether, just not spelled out by the narrative, a tactic that almost always pays off nicely. Stevenson plays against his square jawed, strong n’ silent type as essentially a raving lunatic who has gotten on the wrong side of this race of beings and will not be dissuaded that they are anything more than vicious beasts, even when it becomes apparent that this is probably not the case and he has been going about the situation all wrong. Gens doesn’t fuck around when it comes to horror (check out his absolutely savage Frontiers and The Divide) and as such this has a brutal, tragic edge to it but there’s lyrical beauty as well, especially in Garrido’s remarkably physical, disarmingly soulful performance as Aneris, who seems like a strange hybrid of human girl, fallen angel, space alien and mermaid. Also effective is a very cinematic musical score by Víctor Reyes that swells and falls, ebbs and flows throughout the story like sea does against this stark, forgotten corner of the world. This film is like a strange tale told to you in a sailor’s pub one night by a drunken old captain; it’s at once ridiculous and sensational but there’s some kind of sad, eerie truth to it that hangs over you like a cloud after that final wave crashes. A film well worth seeing.

-Nate Hill

Disney’s Flight Of The Navigator

I feel like live action Disney stuff from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s is underrated. The animated ventures always get minted into classics and go platinum while awesome entries like Flight Of The Navigator get lost and relegated to hidden gem territory after awhile. This is a smart, funny, charming, invigorating and refreshingly eerie little SciFi that doesn’t talk down to its young audience or wade into sap.

In 1978 young David (Joey Cramer) disappears walking through the woods one night, and isn’t seen for eight years until he walks up to his house and finds different people living in it. Here the film impressed me by showing this whole sequence from his blind perspective, because for him only about four hours have passed and he can’t figure out why when the cops track down his parents, (Cliff De Young and Veronica Cartwright are very effective) they have aged so much. Their reunion is treated maturely and with impressively adequate emotion from Cramer, who ever so slightly reminds me of a young Henry Thomas, therefore cementing the Amblin vibes nicely. David has of course been abducted by aliens but that’s no spoiler as you can see by the chromed up spacecraft jetting around on the film’s poster. The resident extraterrestrial who took him now returns and the two embark on an initially disorganized and frequently hilarious ‘mission’ to find star charts downloaded to David’s brain, evade a pesky NASA bigwig (Howard Hesseman) and return David to his family.

This film is a wondrous creation because of how laid back the action is. David teams up nicely with the alien, a rambunctious robotic arm named Max and voiced by Paul ‘Pee Wee Herman’ Reubens. Most of their time together isn’t spent lamenting the situation or blasting government troops with phaser beams but rather goofing off, rocking out to the earth music that Max takes to, hanging out with other alien specimens he has adopted in his voyages (cue the adorable 80’s practical effects) and zooming around the globe in their vehicle which provides some very good exterior FX too. A young Sarah Jessica Parker also shows up as a sweetheart of a NASA defector who watches out for David and eventually helps him escape. It’s a terrific film that doesn’t take itself too seriously yet doesn’t goof off too much and ruin setup and believability (I’m looking at you, Joe Dante’s misfire ‘Explorers’). It benefits greatly from Cramer who was a true find but doesn’t seem to have had much of a career following this. Greatly recommended.

-Nate Hill

John Carpenter’s In The Mouth Of Madness

Any enthusiastic reader will attest to the power of books, how they can transport you to other worlds and open doors to new realities. John Carpenter’s In The Mouth Of Madness takes that idea and whips it up into something terrifyingly literal, deliciously meta, relentlessly gruesome and thoroughly addictive for any horror fan whose tastes are rooted in pop culture.

It starts off with a crazed Sam Neill being shunted off to a remote asylum, raving like a loon about things that go bump in the night. This is cool because inherently Neill seems like a collected, pragmatic fellow onscreen so it’s especially disturbing watching him come apart at the seams and go ballistic. As he tells his story to a state appointed shrink (the great David Warner) so too do we learn of how he was once a hotshot insurance investigator hired by a publishing tycoon (Charlton Heston in an awesome extended cameo) to find their golden goose horror author Sutter Cane, who has gone missing. Cane is of course a spiritual avatar for Stephen King here but King also exists in this universe because they proudly and hilariously proclaim that Cane outsold him by a landslide, the first little meta touch of many. Neill heads off to Hobbs End, a town in one of Cane’s books that doesn’t seem to actually exist… until it does. He finds a whole lot there including Cane himself, now gone mad and played by ever intense scene stealer Jurgen Pröchnow in a devilish turn.

I’m not sure why this didn’t make as big a splash as some of Carpenter’s flagship works but for me it’s one of his very best. As Neill realizes the kind of chaos that his visit to Hobbs End will cause the audience gets to experience a medium shattering dose of immersive horror that breaks the boundaries of screens in front of us and feels both hilariously and eerily alive all it’s own (think Last Action Hero in the horror realm). That’s not to mention some truly spectacular special effects to almost rival Carpenter’s The Thing and sly, tongue in cheek performances from all involved including Julie Carmen, Peter Jason, Bernie Casey, Willhelm Von Homburg, Frances Bay and John Glover as the freaky deaky asylum administrator. You can’t ask for much more from a horror film as far as I’m concerned; reality bending narrative, gore to spare, atmosphere in bushels and humour as well. Grab the Shout Factory Blu Ray if you can because the single DVD release is a grainy, cropped affair and this film deserves to have all its gristle, guts and Lovecraftian glory shown in HD. Horror classic.

-Nate Hill

Hidden Gems: Tarik Saleh’s Metropia

Who loves dystopian SciFi in the tradition of George Orwell? Who also loves fresh, innovative animation styles that bring worlds to life in new ways for the eyes to savour and absorb? Tarik Saleh’s Metropia has both of the above boxes checked and more, it’s a relatively star studded futuristic hidden gem that came and went with no fanfare whatsoever but definitely deserves another look.

Set in a drab, grey saturated Europe of the not too distant future, giant mega corporations rule industry and infrastructure while a vast, sprawling subway system interconnects the entire continent and heralds in a new age of depressingly humdrum office drone jobs and stifling urban monotony. Roger (cult favourite Vincent Gallo) is one of these nine to fivers trapped by the system, stuck in a daily rotunda of riding this mammoth transport system to and from a dead end job, until one day he hears voices inside his head, particularly that of Stefan (Alexander Skarsgard) a mysterious whistleblower and fellow office drone who may or may not be real. Then he’s entranced by Nina (Juliette Lewis) a sultry fellow passenger who seems to know something about what he’s experiencing. This leads him down a spooky rabbit hole of global corruption, conspiracy theories and some of the most dryly hilarious social satire this side of Terry Gilliam.

If you look at posters and promo stills of this you’ll see the intensely specific level of work put into the animation of these characters, a slightly uncanny valley esque devotion to hyper realism that both leaps off the screen and blends in perfectly with the CGI cities, offices and tunnels they exist in. The filmmakers *could* have easily made these people look like their famous and uniformly eccentric voice actor counterparts but instead only threw in the odd glance, mannerism or slight characteristic, letting these talented folks bring entirely unique performances to life. Gallo is a strange dude and always picks off the beaten path projects so he fits right in. Lewis has slinky fun as the sort of femme fatale sort of love interest with her own snaky agenda. Udo Kier, another beloved cult icon, has a ball in a scenery chewing turn as the evil megalomaniac CEO of a company that uses everyday household products for fiendish mind control, and Stellan Skarsgard makes droll, dangerous work of his head of security. There’s oh so sublime and subtle dark humour, a real sense of place and a decidedly European flavour to it all despite the varied cast. If you enjoy unique outings in the animation genre, cerebral SciFi or just a great corporate espionage yarn you’ll dig this, I really want to get it more exposure and eventually the cult pedestal status it rightly deserves.

-Nate Hill