Posts tagged sci-fi
The bad news is that the sci-fi show Fringe is over. However the good news is that it recently received a second life through Titan Books. So far, the publisher has released two stories set in the program’s universe, with a third on the way for 2014. Titan’s novels are written by Christa Faust and provide backstory for your favorite characters: Olivia (Anna Torv), Walter (John Noble), and Peter (Joshua Jackson). Each book features a single character on the cover and concentrates on him or her, like Faust’s tale Fringe – The Burning Man, which takes place during FBI Special Agent Olivia Dunham’s childhood.
Starting with an incident during Olivia’s early years as a test subject for the drug Cortexiphan, The Burning Man quickly introduces us to the substance’s mysterious supernatural effects on her. Then we move forward a bit, to the events that cause her to shoot her abusive stepfather, and to her ensuing encounter with a man named Tony, who forms a bizarre physiological attachment to her. Driven to madness by this condition, Tony is locked away in an institution, although eventually he’s released and sets out on a quest to kill Olivia. By this point, she is at a New England boarding school with her younger sister Rachel, who Olivia realizes she must also protect from this psychopath. Can the lone teenager save her sister and herself though?
What’s great about Christa Faust’s Fringe – The Burning Man, is that it provides depth to Olivia’s past that the show often could only accomplish entirely through exposition. It’s intriguing to uncover more details behind her traumatic relationship with her stepfather and to discover how she became a career-driven crime fighter. You receive deeper insight into her troubled relationships with men and the reason for her emotional reluctance with romantic entanglements as well.
Faust’s pacing is perfect, so her story moves quickly, similar to an episode of Fringe. Although the narrative focuses on Olivia, Faust shifts perspectives effectively between various characters to give you a full picture of the action. Like Dunham herself, Faust’s prose is efficient and descriptive, with no nonsense. Occasionally she veers into a pop culture reference or silly analogy, although her writing is otherwise straightforward. The only place where Faust’s voice feels off is in the book’s epilogue. With the adult Olivia, her words take on a hyper, stream of consciousness style that doesn’t match the earlier chapters. However given the book’s already quick rhythm, if the whole thing was constructed with this frantic voice, it could have been even more compelling yarn.
If you’re looking to get your Fringe fix, Faust’s novels from Titan are a good way to do it, but be sure to savor the first two outings, because the next one doesn’t arrive until March.
If Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s bar-hopping buddy flick “The World’s End” had a motto, it would be: In cervesia veritas. Just like the Latin expression In vino veritas, their picture is a statement about the truth-revealing power of alcohol. Except instead of imbibing wine like the ancient Romans, these five friends unwittingly find factuality by consuming beer. Delicious brew in “The World’s End” isn’t just a catalyst for discovering personal truths though, it also helps expose dangerous Earth-shattering secrets.
The film’s story centers on Gary King (Pegg), a drug-addled 40-year-old who has pathetically clung to the peak of his youth: a night he and his chums attempted their town’s ultimate pub crawl. Down on his luck and desperate to relive the time of his life, he cons estranged pals (Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan, and Paddy Consadine) into joining him for another go at all 12 bars. After arriving however, they quickly make the horrifying discovery that robots now control their town. Realizing that Gary’s team is wise to them, the mechanical men soon give chase, but can these buddies survive long enough to enjoy a pint at the crawl’s final pub, The World’s End?
“The World’s End” is the third movie in Wright and Pegg’s Cornetto trilogy, which includes “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz.” Although these flicks aren’t interconnected stories, they all feature Cornetto ice cream, Pegg and Frost in main roles, gifted homage, and poignant emphasis on complex friendships. This film is no different; Pegg and Frost play pals frequently at odds and the plot pays glorious tribute to science fiction classics such as “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” Like other Wright and Pegg pictures, “The World’s End” creates brilliant laughs from snappy banter, beautifully choreographed fight scenes, and the outrageous crisis coping mechanisms its characters.
As Gary, Pegg gives a fascinating performance, accentuated by the unusual manic energy and odd wiry strength he brings to the part. Pegg is also slippery in a way where you can never trust Gary, yet you can’t help wanting to anyway. Frost, who normally plays zanier characters, provides a pleasantly grounded portrayal of Gary’s uptight foil Andy. Freeman, Marsan, and Consadine are also a joy to watch, superbly rounding out this quirky group as the brainy smooth-operator, the timid family man, and the shy nice-guy.
Although beer may be the driver for this booze-fueled adventure, it represents more than that to the characters. The substance signifies a holy grail-like, tasty moment when all is right with the world. In that way, “The World’s End” is an ode to drinking, emphasized by its intense shots of golden brew, entertaining pub names, and beer-themed lines like, “We’re gonna see this through to the bitter end. Or…lager end.” The film’s celebration of carefree intoxication fits perfectly with Gary’s nostalgia.
Wright and Pegg play up Gary’s wistfulness by using a stylized opening sequence and a soundtrack heavily rooted in the 1990s. Despite their amusement reflecting on the past, they are still careful to express the dangers of nostalgia through the drastic consequences of Gary’s actions. What’s slightly disappointing, is that despite their condemnation of Gary’s behavior, Wright and Pegg ultimately copout and let him off the hook. Perhaps the strangest part of movie is its darkly comedic ending, which is the only part of the film that doesn’t match the rest of the Cornetto trilogy. Still, “The World’s End” is a fast-paced, chuckle-filled ride so loaded with clever jokes that it’s impossible to notice everything on first viewing. Like “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz,” you’ll want to watch it again and again hoping to catch them all.
My Grade: A…as in Amazing! A Must-Watch!
For British filmmakers Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, the Cornetto is more than just a tasty ice cream treat that comes in three flavours. Because their comedies don’t share connected characters, the Cornetto is one of several delicious thematic elements that ties the movies together. Wright, Pegg and Frost’s two previous films “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” or flavours if you will, are also united by running jokes, loving homage to specific genres and stories about the power of friendship. The third variety in their series, also known as the Cornetto trilogy, is no different; it’s an action-packed, booze-addled sci-fi adventure called “The World’s End.”
“The World’s End” focuses on Gary King (Pegg), grown man whose mind is trapped in the early 90s. Gary pathetically clings to what he considers the best night of his life: an attempt he and his friends made to conquer their hometown’s epic pub crawl: The Golden Mile. Down on his luck and desperate to recapture that feeling, he convinces his pals (Frost, Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan, and Paddy Consadine) to join him for one more effort to take on all 12 pubs in one night. However they quickly hit a snag in their journey, after discovering that mysterious forces now control their town. Can they free everyone from these shackles and live long enough to have a pint at the final pub, The World’s End?
Recently I sat down with Wright, Pegg and Frost to discuss “The World’s End,” the dangers of nostalgia and how they achieve their amazing choreography. Here are some of the highlights of our conversation.
Click here to read the interview.
In 2009, Neill Blomkamp’s directorial debut “District 9” punched audiences in the stomach with its gut-wrenching realism and gripping social commentary. The emotional bruising left in its wake didn’t just seize viewer attention though, it captured Hollywood’s too. Struck by Blomkamp’s creativity with a smaller budget, the industry decided to offer him a larger one for his sophomore effort “Elysium.” Working inside the Hollywood machine can be tricky however, since directors often compensate for greater resources with major creative compromises. What’s miraculous about Blomkamp’s flick is that it doesn’t seem like he sacrificed anything, because “Elysium” is a grim, arresting picture.
Click here to read more of this review.
Have you ever reached the end of a book and felt completely confused about what happened? Maybe you had a hard time with one of those “classics” filled with symbolism that you were forced to read in school. I’m not talking about tomes like that though. Have you ever been totally befuddled by a modern, run-of-the-mill novel? If you still answered “No,” you’re lucky, because I can’t say the same after finishing Danie Ware’s sci-fi/fantasy tale “Ecko Rising.”
I can normally handle science fiction literature, but I’m not used to fantasy. At first I thought my inexperience with the genre is why I didn’t get “Ecko Rising.” However as a fairly intelligent person capable of processing complex concepts daily, that rationale didn’t make sense to me. I also wondered if I struggled because Ware’s novel is the first in an intended series. Perhaps I needed to read another one to grasp her yarn? That couldn’t be it either, since I’ve gone through other multi-volume story arcs and still understood the first book. After much thought, I deduced that the reason why I couldn’t comprehend “Ecko Rising” is that it’s just not well-written.
Ware herself is not a bad writer. I know that seems contradictory for me to say, so I’ll explain. She proves her talent with a creative premise, vivid prose, and a fast-paced narrative. Although she doesn’t explain many of the specialized terms that exist in her unique worlds, which is why “Ecko Rising” is confusing as heck. Characters in her story speak in bizarre dialects with weird slang and jargon that doesn’t get defined. Ware starts using these terms expecting you to somehow pick up their meaning based on their context, something that isn’t easy. A map at the front of the book gives you some frame of reference on places at least, but it doesn’t help that much.
Ware’s story focuses on Ecko, some sort of bionically enhanced assassin living in London. His gadgets allow him super strength, speed, and stealth that make him a force to be reckoned with. While on a mission, he blacks out and wakes up in a mysterious world with no technology, strange characters, monsters, and magic. As dark forces descend upon this peaceful land, it seems like Ecko is the only one who can save it. Is he dreaming? Is this place a virtual reality test for Ecko set up for someone’s amusement? Or scariest of all, is it real?
A testimonial on the back cover for “Ecko Rising” describes it as “The Matrix meets Game of Thrones…” which I think is a fairly accurate comparison. There’s this constant mind game going on with Ecko and the reader about whether his environment is a computer simulation just like “The Matrix.” And the fantasy elements combined with Ware’s multiple simultaneous storylines and intense sex scenes feel very much like “Game of Thrones.” Most of the erotic portions are titillating, however I could have done without the book’s messed up rape passage.
Ware’s locations that she constructs for “Ecko Rising” are fascinating places to inhabit, brought to life by descriptive language that is quite colorful, even if it has a tendency to be a bit repetitive. She always keeps the action moving at a brisk pace, intertwining several perspectives at the same time, which makes it easy to get through this 500-plus page novel. Unfortunately if you’re like me, you’ll reach the end, wondering what it was all about and why you stuck around.
Hi all. It’s been a while since my last “Weekend Movie Preview” column, I know. Things have been busy for me, so I’ve been publishing one review at a time lately. However, I was thinking it would be nice to spice things up and use this format to share my reviews of two films that came out this weekend. Check out my thoughts on the Superman reboot “Man of Steel” and the apocalyptic comedy “This Is the End.”
Click here to read my reviews.
Joseph Kosinski’s sci-fi flick “Oblivion” is like the South Park episode “Simpsons Already Did It,” where Butters tries to cause havoc, and is continually foiled when he learns that “The Simpsons did it!” first. With Kosinski’s film though, you might say, “Cinema did it!” repeatedly after the introduction of each well-traveled science fiction theme in the movie.
Click here to read more.
Full disclosure: author Daniel M. Kimmel is my friend, and my colleague in The Boston Online Film Critics Association. However I can honestly say that I would have loved his book Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood, and the Bartender’s Guide, regardless of whether I knew him personally. Kimmel’s debut novel is brilliant satire of the film industry, which also happens to be a hilarious, heartwarming science fiction story about unexpected friendship.
Click here to read more.
If Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” and Terry Gilliam’s “12 Monkeys” had a child, it would be Rian Johnson’s “Looper.” Johnson’s third feature melds the film noir influences, sleek aesthetics, and dystopian themes from “Blade Runner” with the time travel elements, world-saving mission, and difficult ethical questions from “12 Monkeys.” The resulting medley is a thought-provoking sci-fi drama which will stick with you long after you leave the theater.
When I first read about Akiva Schaffer’s alien invasion flick “The Watch,” I got the sense that it would be similar to “Attack the Block.” That was fine with me, since I loved Joe Cornish’s funny, action-packed, thriller. I figured Schaffer’s film would focus more on laughs than gore, given the casting of comedic actors like Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, and Richard Ayoade. What I didn’t anticipate though was how much “The Watch” would dial back action sequences in favor of mediocre comedy.