Archive for the ‘ movies in space ’ Category

forbidden planet. [movies in space – #7]

Going into this movie I only knew a few things:

1. A young, pre-slapstick Leslie Nielsen starred in it.

2. Everyone says it heavily influenced Star Wars.

3. It’s hailed as pulpy 50’s sci-fi at its best.

4. Richard Castle and Kate Beckett on Castle love it.

I wasn’t sure if I was more likely to enjoy watching it because it was unintentionally funny, or actually good. The answer, it would turn out, is ‘actually good.’

I loved this movie. It definitely had its share of 50’s camp shortcomings. Weak dialogue (although not nearly as bad as I anticipated), a robot who doesn’t make any scientific sense whatsoever, no believable relationships. Yet, what the movie lacked in many areas, it more than made up for in sci-fi brilliance.

I never expect to see smart sci-fi in a movie from the 50’s. For example, they arrive on Altair IV, which has enough oxygen to support them without life support systems, but as they fly over and land there are no plants. So, while I expected as much, in my head I’m chuckling that oxygen isn’t just something that sits somewhere indefinitely. These humans, as well as the original colony they are searching for, would breathe said oxygen, exhale carbon dioxide, run out of breathable air, and die. Yet, they find living people, and these people have set up homes surrounded by gardens and trees. They brought an eco-system with them to turn their carbon dioxide back into oxygen. In a cheesy sci-fi movie today, they would mention this in dialogue, in a really overt fashion. In Forbidden Planet, they NEVER talk about it. It’s just legitimate science, in the background. WHAT?!? It’s awesome.

The movie is full of stuff like that. For all its weaknesses, the narrative is tight and strong, keeping you guessing the entire time. It’s much more like a Asimov novel than a silly sci-fi movie in premise and plot. The scope once you start seeing more of the forbidden planet is also really amazing. This remarkably huge subterranean world I wasn’t anticipating.

I also think people undersell this movie when they simply say “Star Wars was heavily influenced by this movie.” It’s very true, but watching the movie I was reminded of what makes me love sci-fi. About two thirds through, as I was starting to love the movie in earnest, I was struck (almost emotionally so) by how important this movie has been in the history of film. All of the movies I love in the sci-fi realm may exist because of this film. I thought, this movie came out in 1956 and is capturing my imagination now; how much more so was that the case when a 12 year old George Lucas, and a ten year old Stephen Spielberg were watching this for the first time, or the tenth time?

Forbidden Planet planted an imaginative seed in the brains of folks who have been making smart, wonder inspiring movies ever since. I’m so glad to have finally been a witness.

Oh yeah, and Leslie Nielsen was sci-fi pulp movie gold.


the black hole. [movies in space. #6]

This movie was just silly. Perhaps it was intentionally trying to embrace the sci-fi B-movie vibe. If it was, they nailed it: bored acting, half-assed story, the waste of a great premise. Also, for some reason, when getting close to the black hole it turns out black holes are actually big magma storms. That is, until they went through the hole, then there was some sort of twist ending where they decided to get philosophical/theological and enter heaven and hell territory. Weird.

The good part, unlike the robots in Silent Running, the robots in The Black Hole were enjoyable for the most part. They were just as impractical, or almost, but they talked, which at least added a bit of charm.



silent running. [movies in space #5]

Well, they can’t all be winners. This review has spoilers, so if you ever plan on watching this one you should look away.

The story of a guy who works on a space station designed to house forest ecosystems since there are no longer any trees and such on earth. The call comes from earth that orders the destruction of all the tree space stations. So, our guy goes rogue to save his forest from being nuked.

This movie is pretty awful.

The acting was terrible, which wasn’t helped by terrible writing. The dialogue was so bad that it felt like it was improvised by people who had merely a passing knowledge of the english language. No one involved in making this movie seemed to have much desire to pay attention to peripheral things like science, logic, or realistic human motivations.

The movie did have one thing going for it. There was a scene early on with literally the fattest squirrel I have ever seen. It was massively fat. His belly dragged on the ground when he ran. I’m not kidding, this was a fat fucking squirrel.

Bruce Dern’s performance is apparently praised by some, but in my opinion it was terrible. His attempts at playing intense and passionate came across as insane, unstable, and sulky. He didn’t ever feel like a hero saving something worthwhile, he felt more like an ecoterrorist bent on doing whatever he needs to do to save the trees without really ever sharing a compelling reason as to why. You’d think it would have been fairly simple to come up with compelling reasons for trees to exist… you’d think wrong. The best arguments he ever makes, check that, the only reasons he ever gives are that melons taste good, and it’s really sad for little girls to grow up in a world where they will never hold a leaf. Also, the events of the film make it impossible for the forest on his space freighter to ever go back to reforest earth, thus the killing and such that he does are done just to save the forest based on principle and an inability to let go, as opposed to any actual future good. He kills three men, and later himself, so that the forest will exist out in deep space, with no way to track or find it at a later date.

It also bothers me that when they designed the robots, no one seemed interested in something even remotely plausible. If you look at the way they operate, they use as much energy as possible, don’t function based on even a layman’s understanding of how computers or mechanics work (even a 1971 computer), and a very loose grasp of physics would make it clear that they would never be capable of completing any of the jobs they do in the movie. Couldn’t they have just asked a robotic engineer or two what robots might look like in the future? As industrial design goes, they get a great big F. Seriously though, I’d challenge you to come up with less efficient robots, and I bet you’d be hard pressed.

They also never explain why these man made eco-systems would exist in space. The only reason we have is that the story wouldn’t have worked otherwise. Why not build them in the desert? On the ocean? Under the ocean? Anywhere cheaper than outer fucking space? Meh. Also, no reason is given as to why they suddenly decide to destroy the forests.

I could keep going on for a while about dumb shit in this movie, but I’ve made my point, so let that be enough.

solaris (1972). [movies in space #4]

Tarkovskiy’s 1972 film about a mission to a space station orbiting the fictional “planet” of Solaris. Weird stuff keeps happening on the space station, and scientist Kris Kelvin is sent there to decide whether or not the Solaris project would continue. Once there, the frayed minds of the other scientists aboard the station, as well as the presence of some unexpected guests, make the mission much more trying than he thought. Will he ever get back to earth?

It wasn’t difficult to tell that this was by the same director as Stalker. Lots of slow, sweeping shots; very deliberate pace where ideas are more important than story; unique take on film that most people would have trouble sitting through. I think a combination of Tarkovskiy’s skill as a director, combined with excellent acting, make the end product quite rewarding and enjoyable. I really do love the heady way Tarkovskiy liked to roam around in philosophy (and religion when he could get away with talking about God while pretending not to talk about God… he was making films in the USSR after all).

I liked Stalker more, but I’m not sure why yet. Maybe I never will know why, since Tarkovskiy made films you experience and live in as much as watch. He’s up there with Bergman and Kurosawa as guys who pushed the medium of film firmly into the realm of art.

the fifth element. [alien invasion/visitation movies #4. movies in space #3.]

I wasn’t sure if this one should be part of the Movies in Space list, since most of the second half takes place in space; or the Invasion/Visitation list, since the whole plot revolves around the approach of a purely evil alien force threatening earth. Best solution? Count it as both. It’s a win/win/win situation.

Not my first time seeing this, but this was the perfect excuse for watching it again. Luc Besson’s hyper-stylized sci-fi action romp is still crazy after all these years. Also, it’s still awesome. In my biased opinion, it’s just the right amounts of absurd, funny, and action-packed.

It’s got Bruce Willis kicking ass, Milla Jovovich before she started making terrible so called “zombie” movies, Chris Tucker in an early role, Ian Holm before he was Bilbo, and Gary Oldman. I love me some Gary Oldman.

Fun times.

serenity. [movies in space – #2]

I’ve already written about this before (briefly), and Emily plans to write about it very soon. So, I’ll just point out that this is easily one of the best gorram sci-fi movies ever made. I may have been really late to the party, but it will forever be a fixture in my ‘at least once a year’ movies.

Perhaps some time soon I’ll write an ode of greater length.

moon. [movies in space – #1]

Well, my previously mentioned idea of picking several genres and then watching 30 films from each by the end of the year is underway. The fact that Moon was expiring on the ole’ Netflix ‘Watch Instantly’ feature made an easy decision as to what the first genre and film would be.

This was my second time watching this one (which was true for my viewing partner, Brian, as well).

Let me tell you folks, I love this movie. Sam Rockwell just acts my fucking socks off. Rockwell’s perfect portrayal of the same man at the beginning and end of three years alone in space is stunning. This is made even more impressive by the fact that often he isn’t acting with anyone else, playing alone or opposite the Hal-like robot, voiced by Kevin Spacey (who gave a fantastic performance as well).

This movie is proof enough that the Academy ignores far too many deserving films each year. Not only was Rockwell ignored, but a wonderful directorial debut by Duncan Jones, and a brilliant script. Meanwhile, The Blind Side was nominated for Best Picture that year.

In Moon, Duncan Jones and company got everything right. It’s one of those select films where I wouldn’t change a single thing if given the chance. The script, the score, the direction, the acting. Everything is so well crafted.

The film is in rarified air in its attention to small details, especially in terms of the development of the story and the character(s). The nuance is so pitch-perfect that it takes scenes which, in most films, would be throw-away scenes, and transforms them into profound moments in the film.

This movie is perfect. It’s easily 80% of the reason I’m excited for Duncan Jones’ upcoming film Source Code (Michelle Monaghan makes up the other 20%).

Oh yeah, and can anyone tell me how the hell they filmed the ping pong scene?