Posts tagged sci-fi
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.
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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.
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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.
In 1979, director Ridley Scott revolutionized the sci-fi genre with his landmark film Alien. The movie’s realistic future mixed with Swiss artist H.R. Giger’s grotesque alien design, terrified viewers. Using Scott and Giger’s work as a foundation, James Cameron created the action-packed sequel Aliens in 1986. Although Cameron’s film concentrated less on horror, he introduced equally grounded and imaginative technology to the same universe.
Sadly the franchise declined with the following sequels, Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection. However this weekend, Ridley Scott hopes to revitalize science fiction horror with his epic flick Prometheus, which is rumored to an Alien prequel. In preparation for my viewing of the film, I checked out two paperbacks recently re-released by Titan Books: The Book of Alien and Aliens – Colonial Marines Technical Manual.
If you think “Men in Black III” should have a new rap song by Will Smith or more scenes with Frank the Pug, then you’ll be sorely disappointed. The closest you get to either, is a tune by Pitbull during the end credits and a couple of minor nods to the famous talking canine. But you have to look on the bright side: Barry Sonnenfeld’s “Men in Black III” is a campy sci-fi adventure complete with time travel, gimmicky 3D, inane dialogue, and an outlandish villain.
Just like the other movies in the series, “MIB III” has our heroes fighting a renegade alien with plans of world domination. A goggle-eyed baddie named Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) escapes captivity to exact revenge upon the man who put him away: Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones). Boris jumps back in time to kill Agent K, which alters the course of history and allows his species to invade Earth.
Since Agent J (Will Smith) is the only one with memory of the previous timeline, he travels back to the 1960s so he can foil Boris and save his partner. On his journey, Agent J bumps into the younger Agent K (Josh Brolin), who he joins forces with to defend the planet. Before they can make any progress though, they must learn to work together all over again.
While most situations in “MIB III” are business as usual for this franchise, there are a couple of humorous and inventive sequences which stand out. The prison escape involving Boris is hilarious its amusing twist on the “special” birthday cake trick. Likewise, time travel in the movie, also known as time jumping, quite literally requires plunging from tall structures. As he uses the time machine, Agent J falls through some entertaining time periods, passing pterodactyls and upset investors after the stock market crash of 1929.
Like most 3D films, the extra dimension in “MIB III” functions more as a trick than a means to enhance the storytelling. Sonnenfeld foolishly uses it to throw things in the audience’s face like a lame amusement park ride.
The stupidity of this movie extends beyond 3D, into the dialogue between its characters. Screenwriter Etan Cohen gives Will Smith very little to work with, so don’t expect many laughs from him. Cohen’s lowest point comes when Boris meets himself in the past, and his younger self actually asks “Who are you?” We’re not talking about an old Biff and young Biff scenario from “Back to the Future II” here. These two look enough alike that he should be able to recognize himself immediately.
Josh Brolin is fantastic as a young Tommy Lee Jones, impeccably mimicking the actor’s mannerisms. Since Brolin’s Agent K hasn’t become jaded yet, he’s a more sentimental fellow who can talk openly about his thoughts and feelings. Jemaine Clement’s Boris the Animal is also enjoyable because his snarling character is a vile villain. Occasionally Clement goes a bit over-the-top into cheese territory though, which can be annoying. Perhaps the most surprising performance comes from Michael Stuhlbarg, who portrays a quirky alien with the ability to see the future. Stuhlbarg’s childlike sense of wonder and tendency to break the fourth wall are especially fun.
“Men in Black III” possesses much of the same camp which made the first film so much fun to watch. Where it differs, is that takes an obnoxious sappy direction at the end by showing a direct connection between Agent K and Agent J’s destinies. At least this flick is more memorable than 2002’s “Men in Black II.”
My Grade: C+