Movie Reviews from the Stream 2/20/18

Alien Arrival (Netflix)

This one is a low budget sci-fi flick where a man who infiltrates an experimental ship crashes on a moon and then must survive. The alien, becomes himself when the moon, or creatures there, or some top secret experiment keeps bringing him back to life over and over. I’m a little unsure of just how or what was bringing him back to life. I know he gets “snatched” (a la Body Snatcher Aliens) but I’m not clear on if that is all part of the secret experiment or not??? It’s a decent movie to fire up if you like the single survivor and sidekick AI dynamic that seems to work so well ever since 2001: A Space Odyssey. The acting is pretty good for being low budget and I never got bored with what was taking place on screen.

Sidenote: It was filmed in Australia and I never knew that they had so many flies!!! In many of the outdoor scenes the actors were surrounded by flies.

Expelled from Paradise (Netflix)

This is another excellent anime that’s on Netflix right now. The premise is that a hacker (Frontier Setter) is breaking into the satellite paradise called DEVA and offering humans the chance to explore the stars. 99% of all humans are now digitized in DEVA while the rest live in the wastelands of Earth. Angela Balzac is a security agent on DEVA and is sent down to Earth on a body grown from her original genetic material. There she hooks up with Dingo, an Earth liaison, who will assist her in tracking down the hacker. Things are more than they seem though and when Angela is faced with the truth, will she finish off Frontier Setter or go against all that she has ever known and take on DEVA?

The animation is phenomenal and the colors pop off the screen. The final mech battle is how I see my first anime experience with Robotech, in my head. Granted, if you go back to Robotech now, those fights with that animation doesn’t hold up well, this is how I still remember it going down though!!! If you like anime, like mech fighting, and like cyberpunk style hacking and maybe even a little Mad Max… Then Expelled from Paradise is for you!!!

30 Years to Life (Amazon Prime)

This one is a low budget speculative sci-fi flick from 1998. Instead of sending people to prisons, society has come up with a way to age people the number of years that they would serve. When a 15 year old kid is framed for a murder, he is aged 30 years and then must find a way to prove his innocence. Would that be more of a deterrent than spending years in a prison? Maybe, maybe not… The movie speculates it would be and the thought of being prematurely aged is a frightening thing to think about. It’s an intriguing premise to say the least.

The acting is serviceable, the effects are on a shoestring budget, and the music is all old school synth. Should you take the time to check it out? I guess that really depends on how interesting you find the premise. It’s a B movie in pretty much every way, with an interesting premise. But if that doesn’t do it for you… You should probably move along.

The Cloverfield Paradox (Netflix)

I’m not sure what many of the jaded critics out there were smoking but this is a really good movie. It’s pure “Cloverfield” for one. Secondly, it has that “Alien” feel to it, as far as building tension. Having said that, it was much better than the last Alien movie. The ending wasn’t your average cliche ending that you seem to get with every female led group movie since the dawn of Alien. The acting was good, the music works, and the CGI was done well too.

Part of me just thinks that sci-fi fandom has become jaded. They claim they want more varied sci-fi media but then when they get it, they rip it up and hold it up to the same old same old movies and TV that came before. The Cloverfield movies tell different stories, not really linked, but possibly linked, and give us interesting characters to follow throughout.

Regardless what the hive group mind of sheep on the internet think, I think Netflix has a winner here and it is definitely worth checking out for any sci-fi fan out there. I also applaud Netflix for debuting the trailer at the beginning of the Super Bowl and dropping the movie on the platform for all to stream right after the game. I wish more movies would go direct because the “theater experience” these days leaves much to be desired. Give me my HD screen, home sound system, and a pause button. You can keep your fight for the middle good seats, theater screens or sound systems that seem to always have issues, and the smell of jalapeno nachos wafting strongly through the air. Home viewing is just better in my humble opinion.

Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams REVIEW (NO SPOILERS)

Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams has arrived on Amazon Prime and I’m ready to dive into the cyberpunk techno sci-fi fun of it. I’ve been waiting for this ever since it was originally announced. The reviews have been better than current seasons of Black Mirror (that’s not hard to beat these days) so here we go:

Real Life (Episode 1)

Real Life starts out with a female cop in the future (Anna Paquin – X-men). She’s a lesbian with a flying car and some cool tech gadgets. She escaped a tragic event and her guilt is eating her up. So her girlfriend offers to let her try a new device that her company is working on. This device will make it seem like you have a completely different life. When she goes into this new life, within her head, she’s back in 2012 and she’s a billionaire male (Terrence Howard – Empire). His company is working on a device that interacts with the mind and gives the user the ability to have second life also. Our main character then becomes confused between 2 different worlds and can’t figure out which world, is the real world, and which life, is the real life.

It’s an intriguing story and filled with some really good actors. The premse brings up some good questions about determining what is real and what is just a very vivid dream (which we have all had, but we get to wake up), when it comes to mind altering technology that really doesn’t seem very far fetched these days.

Autofac (Episode 2)

Autofac is a factory that can make anything. After a massive war plunges the world into a post apocalyptic setting, the AI of the autofac continues to produce supplies, unneeded by the last remaining population that is walled off by exclusion zones and left in a small area surrounded by pollution from the factory. The humans come up with a plan to get into the factory and detonate nuclear bombs within so that they can finally be free of it. Little do they know, their existence is linked to the autofac in ways they could never imagine.

As with the first episode, this one draws you in and makes you want to find out just what is going on. Again, there is a twist to it, as so many anthology shows now do. I found myself looking for the twist while watching, and it did turn out to be what I suspected, though it also had an interesting monologue between the factory AI and the main female protagonist which I did feel, made the ending work and feel like a completed story.

Human Is (Episode 3)

Human Is stars Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) and Essie Davis (The Babadook) as a top level couple for the state on are far flung future of Terra (Earth). The air has been poisoned and the people live in the rock of a cliff and bio-domes that protect them from the harsh air. In order to keep the air from being 100% poisonous, they must mine a purification trait from other planets. In this case, they are stealing from an inhabited planet. When Cranston’s character comes back from an excursion from this planet changed, we are faced with the question of, “What is to be human?”

This episode is much more sci-fi than cyberpunk in the setting and the fact that it deals with alien lifeforms. I’m not sure if there is supposed to be a twist or not, even so, it doesn’t need nor rely on that plot device for this story. At 3 episodes into Electric Dreams, this has been my favorite episode so far. The acting and the visuals were above par and the “feel” of this world, from the maze beneath the city to different camera angles, all added to the interesting and enrapturing atmosphere.

Crazy Diamond (Episode 4)

Crazy Diamond stars Steve Buscemi and frankly… I didn’t get this one. The humans are either “Jacks” or “Jills” and inhabited by a synthetic soul (or something). Their habitats are constantly falling into the sea and there is a gate guard that is a “pig lady,” a chimera of a human and a pig. The story is confusing to say the least. Also… the main people are dress in a 70’s future way while these rogues who want the “synthetic souls” are like 80’s future Flock of Seagulls style.

This one really seems to be more concept over story.

The Hood Maker (Episode 5)

The Hood Maker stars Richard Madden (Rob Stark – Game of Thrones) as a detective in a post apocalyptic world that seems to have shunned technology (back to typewriters), while mutant telepaths called Teeps have become a species that is not trusted by the normals. Someone is making a mask that blocks the Teeps from reading minds and the level of trust between Teeps and normals in tenuous.

This one is good but depressing. Normals distrust Teeps because they can read minds, so normals treat Teeps badly. Teeps want to rise up and destroy the normals and if they do, then it vindicates how the normals feel. In the end, as far as I’m concerned, neither side was “good” or right.

Safe and Sound (Episode 6)

I just completed Safe and Sound (writing these as I complete each one) and as of now, this is my favorite story in Electric Dreams. It’s about technology and government control. It’s about controlling people by limiting freedom and making people think “safe spaces” like schools are a good thing. It’s basically, what happens on this ultra PC, snowflake, easily offended trip we are currently on in reality. So yeah, this one is a MUST SEE.

A mother and daughter move across “the rift” from a bubble city (the people think that those in the bubbles cities are terrorists when they are actually for privacy and freedom), only for the daughter to be manipulated by the government, through technology, to get to the outcome needed. The propaganda that is “safe spaces,” plays a big part in this story and it’s nice to see that someone out there created this story to highlight how bad it is as a propaganda tool. WATCH THIS EPISODE!!!

The Father Thing (Episode 7)

This episode is a straight up, good old fashion “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” show, with maybe a little Stranger Things thrown in. It’s a good episode even though it is pretty straight forward and nothing that hasn’t been done before. Still interesting to watch.

Impossible Planet (Episode 8)

Impossible Planet is the story of a space cruise. An old lady wants to see Earth, long since de-populated, so she hires a cruise there. The 2 people taking her there, instead decide to take her money and take her to a planet they can pass off as Earth. The ending is bittersweet but the episode is really good. This is also a universe that I wouldn’t mind seeing more of. It seemed like an interesting place.

The Commuter (Episode 9)

The Commuter is about a time that never was and a woman who can take people’s pain away. This one really doesn’t have anything to do with technology but it is a deeply involving story where you really feel for the lead character played by Timothy Spall (Harry Potter – Wormtail), whose pain come from a son who is on a road to nowhere. I was surprised to see Tuppence Middleton (Sense8 – Riley Blue) as the character of Linda. I could barely tell it was her with the long dark brown hair since I’m used to her in Sense8 with the shorter blonde hair. It’s a good episode even if it feels more Twilight Zone and less technical.

Kill All Others (Episode 10)

Kill All Others is really the hell of a liberal utopia if it should come to pass. Mob rule and state ran control at all levels. Then you have your added “Google-like” advertising to keep people docile. Those who ask questions are the “others” to be dealt with. It was an excellence episode to cap off the first season of Electric Dreams.

Overall, I enjoyed Electric Dreams more than Black Mirror. It’s not quite as dark and morbid as Black Mirror but still tells you interesting stories, some with twist, and some fairly straight forward. It’s definitely an anthology to check out.