Science Fiction: Films & TV

Zeke Newbold

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Chernovik (English title: Rough Draft) has just been released in Russia following some hype. This is a film based on an untranslated novel by Sergie Lukyanenko who is known for the `Day Watch` and `Night Watch` franchise.

I expect it will be available in English before long.

With a 12+ rating I thought it's be more of a `family film` -ie for kids in the main, but he seems to be going for the same young adult audience here. The only difference is that this is less in the horror vein - more straight fantasy.

A twenty something video games designer - Kirrill - finds that his identity has vanished al of a sudden - nobody knows him and someone else is living in his flat. Then he discovers that he has been assigned the role of a `curator` of a waystation between different paralell universes all of which constitute different versions of Earth (well, Moscow anyway).

He lives in a small stone tower bang in the centre of Moscow. People come in from one door, show their ID and pay him some money - and then exit out the other door into an alternate Moscow. One of these is a steampunk Moscow, with airships and steam driven cars, another is a tropical paradise Moscow, then we have a crude Stalinist Moscow and a futuristic Chinese run (?) run still-socialist Moscow...and so on.

It owes much to the vein of fantasy running through Russian literature in Bulgakov and the Strugatsky brothers...but also to C.S Lewis.

It is a bit of a jamboree: visually spectacular and with showdowns between wizards and warlocks and that sort of thing. Look out for killer robot matrioshka dolls too! There is a token love interest, but what stands out more is Kirril's `bromance` with a fellow games designer - the only person who recognises him in every world.

The interdimensional stuff is very zeitgeisty, but one of the main philosophical ideas in it -viz that our world is just a `rough draft` from which better variants are made, is not explored enough. As with `Day Watch` et al, there's mre flash than substance.

If you enjoyed `Daywatch` you'll love this, but I'm not sure what, if anything, I got from it.

6/10 - bearing in mind my Russian is patchy.
 

GNC

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I'm still waiting on the third instalment in the "Watch" series! Or maybe not - I can barely remember what happened in the second now...
 

GNC

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Missions currently on iPlayer - seen 2 eps, no idea what's going on, but this is one classy-looking sci-fi. Even with the swearing, but it's in French, so it's not so bad. Sort of Mission to Mars but better, so far.
 
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Kill Command: Near Future SF Film. Marines, a Cyborg, a training mission and a Rogue AI, what could possibly go wrong? Cyborg computer scientist Mills (Vanessa Kirby) notices some anomalies in signals from an AI at the Harbinger training facility on a remote island. She joins a Marine unit led by Captain Bukes (Thure Lindhardt) and Sergeant Drifter (David Ajala) on a two day training/testing mission on the island. The others are unaware that Mills is investigating possible malfunctions. As the Marines engage battle robots, Mills encounters a S.A.R. (Study Analyze Reprogram) robot but is unable to reprogram it. That night the SAR kills a Marine, using his body to lure the unit into an ambush where they are attacked by advanced battle robots controlled by the SAR.

The Rogue AI story has been done many times before but this is an interesting SF/Action film. The Marines trudge through a hilly temperate tropical forest as they fight for their lives against the advanced robots. The SAR has aspects of the Alien Queen about it, especially as it comes face to face with Mills. The camaraderie of the mixed sex troopers and suspicion of Mills resembles that of the space marines in Aliens. Mills herself is able to wifi interface with robots and AIs through her chips and tech implanted when she was eleven.

Drones watching everything, communication with the outside world cut off. Battling robots in a misty forest, using the trees for shelter. Enough to bring on primeval panic well captured by cinematographer Simon Dennis. Uses a lot of the usual tropes but to good effect with eye-catching drone, robot and VTOL craft design. Directed and written by Steven Gomez. 7/10. On Netflix.
 

blessmycottonsocks

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Kill Command: Near Future SF Film. Marines, a Cyborg, a training mission and a Rogue AI, what could possibly go wrong? Cyborg computer scientist Mills (Vanessa Kirby) notices some anomalies in signals from an AI at the Harbinger training facility on a remote island. She joins a Marine unit led by Captain Bukes (Thure Lindhardt) and Sergeant Drifter (David Ajala) on a two day training/testing mission on the island. The others are unaware that Mills is investigating possible malfunctions. As the Marines engage battle robots, Mills encounters a S.A.R. (Study Analyze Reprogram) robot but is unable to reprogram it. That night the SAR kills a Marine, using his body to lure the unit into an ambush where they are attacked by advanced battle robots controlled by the SAR.

The Rogue AI story has been done many times before but this is an interesting SF/Action film. The Marines trudge through a hilly temperate tropical forest as they fight for their lives against the advanced robots. The SAR has aspects of the Alien Queen about it, especially as it comes face to face with Mills. The camaraderie of the mixed sex troopers and suspicion of Mills resembles that of the space marines in Aliens. Mills herself is able to wifi interface with robots and AIs through her chips and tech implanted when she was eleven.

Drones watching everything, communication with the outside world cut off. Battling robots in a misty forest, using the trees for shelter. Enough to bring on primeval panic well captured by cinematographer Simon Dennis. Uses a lot of the usual tropes but to good effect with eye-catching drone, robot and VTOL craft design. Directed and written by Steven Gomez. 7/10. On Netflix.
Seconded. Watched on Amazon Prime the other night and quite enjoyable.
 

GNC

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The Handmaid's Tale has turned into The Make Elisabeth Moss Cry Hour.
 

Swifty

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Ready Player One: It opens with a washed out filter scene of stacked mobile homes and portacabins. 18 year old wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) descends by rope from his aunt's home, passing many people in VR goggles gaming away. This is a society without hope, pollution, climate change and economic crashes have produced a dystopian world. Wade's parents died in the aftermath of a cataclysmic cyber event when many systems failed.

The only escape is through the online VR world, OASIS. Within that universe there is a game Anorak's Quest, invented by the late creator of OASIS, James Halliday. The goal is to find three keys and thereby win the "Easter Egg" which will earn the winner half a trillion dollars and full ownership of OASIS. Wadeis Parzival in the game and has friends and fellow competitors such as Samantha/Art3mis (Olivia Cook) and Helen/Aech (Lena Walthe). But there is also Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), the CEO of Innovative Online Industries, who seeks full control over the OASIS. IOI is a video game conglomerate and manufactures most of the VR equipment used to access the OASIS. Sorrento has amassed an army of debt-indentured gamers to seek the keys.

Alike Blade Runner in some aspects, run-down cities, economic/environmental collapse but differing in an absence of androids and most of the action occurring in VR. There are many cultural references, ranging from the gamers having to fight King Kong and Jurassic Park style dinosaurs to the Iron Giant battling Mechagodzilla.There is also a game sequence set in The Shining where , Aech encounters the Twins and is drenched by the blood filled lift.

Coin earned in the OASIS not only allows gamers to build equipment and artifacts in VR but may also be used in the real world. Being killed online has serious consequences in both worlds as it reduces the gamers status and holdings to zero. "Dead" gamers even attempt suicide.

The evil IOI Corporation looks somewhat like the Scientologists. Slave-labour gamers in it's Loyalty Centres whilst planners/researchers wear suits and ties. It's Security Chief (Hannah John-Kamen) is suitably ruthless like a higher level SeaOrg Hubbardite. Evil and cruel but not pantomime villain depraved.

Steven Spielberg has directed and produced a credible Science Fiction epic, scripted by the novel author Ernest Cline (with Zak Penn) with many filters and hues by cinematographer Janusz Kaminski. Too many involved in special effects to know who to thank. My only quibble with Ready Player One is it's 140 minutes running time, it could have lost 15 minutes and been a better film. 8.5/10
I've just finished watching Ready Player One and agree that it could have lost 15 minutes (I'm guessing your talking about the dragged out ending?) ..

Something was nagging me that I'd seen it before, it wasn't until afterwards that the penny dropped that it's incredibly similar to the South Park 2 parter, Imagination Land: .. Cartman and the gang go to war alongside and against fictional pop culture reference characters ending in a showdown at a big castle for the top prize. Which came first ?, Imagination Land or the book and later movie Ready Player One ? ..

I also thought The Shining part was fantastic, I had to convince the Mrs that our hero, Wade, was almost certainly a young Christian Slater referance, she'd never seen an 80's pic of him before. Definitely a film for fans of Easter eggs (you get no choice, the film is almost entirely constructed by them) and anyone who grew up during the 80's ... 7 out of 10.
 

cycleboy2

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I've just finished watching Ready Player One and agree that it could have lost 15 minutes (I'm guessing your talking about the dragged out ending?) ..

Something was nagging me that I'd seen it before, it wasn't until afterwards that the penny dropped that it's incredibly similar to the South Park 2 parter, Imagination Land: .. Cartman and the gang go to war alongside and against fictional pop culture reference characters ending in a showdown at a big castle for the top prize. Which came first ?, Imagination Land or the book and later movie Ready Player One ? ..

I also thought The Shining part was fantastic, I had to convince the Mrs that our hero, Wade, was almost certainly a young Christian Slater referance, she'd never seen an 80's pic of him before. Definitely a film for fans of Easter eggs (you get no choice, the film is almost entirely constructed by them) and anyone who grew up during the 80's ... 7 out of 10.
One of my bugbears with a lot of modern films, frankly pretty much all of them, is that they'd nearly all be better off losing 15 minutes, or in some cases 30 minutes. I do like the ol' Marvel superhero movies, and I know that if you've spent a lot of dosh, you want to see it on screen, but I can't think of one that I've thought was too short.

Just looking at the length of some of my favourite films: 104 mins for A Matter of Life and Death; Kiss Me, Deadly 106 mins; The Shout 86 mins; Duck Soup 68 mins; orig Blade Runner 117 mins, new version, which I liked, a whopping 164 mins. Original Star Wars 121 mins, The Last Jedi 152 mins. Etc etc...
 

GNC

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Great choice of end credits music on The Handmaid's Tale tonight - Oh Bondage Up Yours by X-Ray Spex. So they do have a sense of humour after all!
 

Analogue Boy

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Rocking a new Mortal Engines trailer:
Oh come on. At what point do you say ‘this is just silly?’
My mate summed this up best.

Howl’s Moving Bioshock Infinite.

For some strange reason - and I’ve seen this trailer and talked about it loads, I simply can’t retain the title in my brain. I think I’m subconsciously filtering it out.
 

EnolaGaia

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Anybody remember James Blish's 'Cities in Flight'?
Reckon that created the germ of the idea for Mortal Engines.
Yes, I remember the Cities in Flight series - though it's been circa 50 years since I last read the books. I think you're right about Blish's series being the inspiration for later tales of movable cities / settlements.

Offhand, I can't think of any substantial SF treatment of movable (entire) cities prior to Blish (who published the first of the four books in 1950).

On the other hand ... One might well argue that Blish was himself inspired by the flying island of Laputa in Gulliver's Travels.
 

Ermintruder

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If you like oddball quirky sci-fi fantasy try The Magicians
What the hell??! I'm watching it for my first time, ever (on UK CH5, by Syfy) and it's like a no-rules freshman year college am-dram self-parody.

Think Hogwarts with muggle twenty-something unknowns, playing sexually-'modern' farce, with plenty of swearing and in-jokes, mixed with some elements sliced from 'Twilight' & 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer', and a liberal dusting of US College Bowl.

Utterly weird...neither recommended or rejected. It's like slowly driving past a no-deaths car crash...you don't want to look, you don't need to look, but you've just got to look.
http://themagicians.wikia.com/wiki/The_Magicians_(TV)
 

Naughty_Felid

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What the hell??! I'm watching it for my first time, ever (on UK CH5, by Syfy) and it's like a no-rules freshman year college am-dram self-parody.

Think Hogwarts with muggle twenty-something unknowns, playing sexually-'modern' farce, with plenty of swearing and in-jokes, mixed with some elements sliced from 'Twilight' & 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer', and a liberal dusting of US College Bowl.

Utterly weird...neither recommended or rejected. It's like slowly driving past a no-deaths car crash...you don't want to look, you don't need to look, but you've just got to look.
http://themagicians.wikia.com/wiki/The_Magicians_(TV)
I found it smug and annoying. Young people with superpowers isn't doing anyone any good.
 

Ermintruder

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I found it smug and annoying.
Agreed....but I've always felt that about the whole 'Buffy' / 'Twilight' / 'Angel' extended franchise. It all relies far too much on a resonance with the simplistic fast-food praxis of a semi-sentient North American teen cohort.

That's precisely what good sci-fi should not do (in my opinion), and why tropes such as the Dr Who universe (or LOTR etc) are so much more mind-expanding.

I always used to love the spirit & intent behind the old intro to "Stingray".....'anything can happen in the next half-hour' .....the strapline to 'The Magicians' could almost be 'you can already guess what you're going to see....and what we'll say....because we are you, bitches: from your yearbook, your mall, your cheerleader team....but with faux anagrammaticised names, metallic pushup bras and eye-patches'
 
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