Films viewed in 2011

Archive for the ‘Sci-Fi’ Category

462. Bad Taste

In Sci-Fi on January 30, 2012 at 1:10 PM

Dir. Peter Jackson

The population of a small town disappears and is replaced by aliens that chase human flesh for their intergalactic fast-food chain.


One of the greatest examples of fearless, fun and phenomenal independent filmmaking has to be Peter Jackson’s first film Bad Taste. All the energy, absurdity and humour that made Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead so popular are on display here. The artistry and polish from Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy might not yet be obvious, but you will see his ability to stretch a budget to impossible means. Creating a film that easily feels like it could have been made for a few million dollars (actual budget was closer to a few thousand) is just one of the thrills. Seeing Jackson literally (and maybe symbolically) battle himself in a breathtaking cliff-side rumble is another. Four years were well spent on this wild adventure – petition it to play in a midnight screening near you.


447. Starman

In Sci-Fi on January 23, 2012 at 4:55 PM

Dir. John Carpenter

An alien takes the form of a young widow’s husband and asks her to drive him from Wisconsin to Arizona as the government tries to stop them.


A single line of dialogue from John Carpenter’s Starman might have given me the most apt and concise definition of love I’ve ever heard.  When the aloof but endearing Jeff Bridges asks Karen Allen to describe this curious human emotion, I expected a “let me show you” eye-roll romantic moment. But her reply is an example of how the film manages to be all at once intelligent, sweet and entertaining.  “Love is when you care about something more than yourself,” she replies. Beautiful. The lesson in traffic light signals was my second favourite takeaway.

372. In Time

In Sci-Fi on November 8, 2011 at 11:21 AM

Dir. Andrew Niccol

In a future where people stop aging at 25, Will Salas is accused of murder and on the run with a hostage as he tries to bring down the system.


Time is literally money in writer/director Andrew Niccol’s parallel future film In Time. Every money-based expression you can think of is altered to hammer home a metaphor that is initially intriguing, but expires long before the film’s final runtime. Justin Timberlake feels like he’s just punching-in action hero cliché’s and struggles to make every turn of phrase convincing. A poker scene where he’s all-in with his life is the film’s best culmination of ideas and drama, but the Robin Hood-esque tale of time bandits ultimately just feels like it’s about taking down pure capitalism. And saving high heel shoes, which Amanda Seyfried literally seems willing to die for in the climax.

365. Attack the Block

In Sci-Fi on November 2, 2011 at 4:33 PM

Dir. Joe Cornish

A teen gang in South London defend their block from an alien invasion.


How very un-American of first-time British director Joe Cornish to make his little heroes rather unlikable from the first scene. Attack the Block is an impressive and never dull alien action film, but only after opening with a mean mugging that doesn’t try to play cute. John Boyega’s limited ability to emote might also be the reason he emerges as the fearless leader when his friends are picked off one-by-one from the pitch black spiked menaces. Nick Frost then ends up confusing the film’s often serious and metaphor-heavy tone, which isn’t a comedy but has more than its fair share of light moments. Once things finally settle into a climactic slow motion groove though, I was fully convinced that this films kicks a little ass.

319. Rollerball

In Sci-Fi on October 7, 2011 at 11:43 AM

Dir. Norman Jewison

In the future, a powerful athlete in the ultra-violent sport known as Rollerball is out to defy those who want him out of the game.


The funny thing about Norman Jewison’s Rollerball is that there’s almost too much time spent playing rollerball. The sport “designed to illustrate the futility of individual effort” in a corporate society often overwhelms the underdeveloped subtext of the film. Riding around in circles has moments of excitement for sure, but James Caan and co. never get the chance to really battle it out with the cynical overlords running the game. But considering the film is 35 years old, I was surprised how well the visuals and sensibilities of a proposed future held up.

318. Real Steel

In Sci-Fi on October 7, 2011 at 11:29 AM

Dir. Shawn Levy

In the near future, where robot boxing is a top sport, a struggling promoter and his estranged son feel they’ve found a champion in a discarded robot.


Apparently in just eight short years, we can look forward to a pretty kick-ass new sport. Real Steel is made with the family-approved grit found in the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and just enough hard-luck obstacles to keep us invested throughout. The special effects look fantastic, Hugh Jackman is solid, and 12-year-old Dakota Gayo is a small revelation. The plot definitely hits all the standard sport film beats and squeaks at points (I don’t accept a kid repairing complex robotic circuitry), but the film delivered just enough emotional punch in the inevitable climactic battle to win me over.

312. Cowboys & Aliens

In Sci-Fi on October 5, 2011 at 4:14 PM

Dir. Jon Favreau

A posse of cowboys and natives are all that stand in their way of an alien invasion in 1873.


Few titles outside of Hot Tub Time Machine have ever been as painfully on-the-nose as Cowboys & Aliens. And unfortunately, the name sums up the entire film experience. Director Jon Favreau’s humourless treatment of the material keeps him well away from Wild Wild West territory, but that approach doesn’t work as well as you’d imagine. A strong cast is severely underused, but Daniel Craig adds impressive credibility to the material. The cowboys are just so badly outgunned, it’s hard to believe they would ever stand a chance.

288. Logan’s Run

In Sci-Fi on September 28, 2011 at 3:50 PM

Dir. Michael Anderson

An idyllic sci-fi future has one major drawback: life must end at 30.


At the 1976 Oscars, Logan’s Run won a Special Achievement Award for visual effects. Boy must that jury have felt stupid after Star Wars came out a few months later. At times, I thought I was watching a made-for-TV Sci-Fi movie from the 50s – and a bad one at that. Aside from the fairly impressive Carrousel death sequences, I’m surprised anyone would accept the cardboard robots and establishing shot miniature cityscapes. But the story is cool and treated with adult sensibility, so I’m optimistic that the long gestating remake won’t be as embarrassing.

225. Green Lantern

In Sci-Fi on September 6, 2011 at 10:34 AM

Dir. Martin Campbell

A test pilot is granted a mystical green ring that bestows him with otherworldly powers and is tasked with keeping peace within the universe.


People had a hate-on for this film from the first trailers, but the end result isn’t all that bad. Ryan Reynolds brings just the right amount of comic relief while keeping things serious, and you won’t find a better straight-from-comic-books face than Blake Lively. Unfortunately, all of Peter Sarsgaard’s supporting work amounts to nothing. At least the space sequences looked great (especially in 3D).

213. Super 8

In Sci-Fi on September 1, 2011 at 10:37 PM

Dir. J.J. Abrams

After witnessing a mysterious train crash, a group of friends in the summer of 1979 begin to investigate a creepy phenomenon.


Take E.T., Jaws, The Goonies and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, throw them in a blender, and voilà – Super 8. The film can’t be separated from these Speilbergian influences, but where it really excels is in creating an extremely appealing group of 13-year-olds and a childish sense of wonder. Where it fails is with the alien/creature story, which just never amounts to anything clever or new. And enough with those blue lens flares.