Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I liked it, overall, and it had just enough small things to drive me a little nuts. Snoke is a misfire (just call Ed Harris! You have the budget!), and so were the various little animals. That one ship’s jump to light speed was sublime. And very good space debris throughout. I like our time with Rey and Kylo, and Poe’s debacles. Finn was wasted, unfortunately. Benicio Del Toro is the best, but I wish they could have found him some other way. The space chase could and should have been gut-wrenching, but something about the cuts and pacing made it just sort of… there. I wonder how I’ll feel whenever I rewatch it again. Of the latest batch, this ranks behind Rogue One. Filed under: Star Wars.
The Girl With All the Gifts. Has anyone written about how in movies, if a child is portrayed to be courteous and well-behaved with adults, we think they’re creepy? There’s just something off about a kid who cares a little too much about adults. I like the fine line this one walks, betraying our sense of what a happy ending should be. I think my favorite parts of zombie movies are when they have to sneak by them. This one has a couple good scenes like that, and they made me remember and appreciate similar ones in Shaun of the Dead, Train to Busan, and World War Z.
Annihilation. I dig it. Interesting to see scifi that leans so much on biology. One of those slower exploratory scifi movies that later gets crossed with some truly horrific gore (Stalker meets The Thing?). Great score, especially the climactic scenes. The music was so… three-dimensional. It felt novel somehow to have a discernible rhythm in there, not a long fermata.
Blade Runner 2049. Pretty. Good. Can’t say I like it as much as the original. I think they could have bumped the pace a bit without losing much. But there are far worse ways to bathe in goofy visuals.
War for the Planet of the Apes. Kind of a bummer. At first I was really into the melodrama. Eventually, it became very tedious. It seemed like they were stopping for a sappy moment every 5-10 minutes. The Gollum/Jar Jar ape didn’t help. I also don’t understand why a crucial character uses a crossbow in a world with guns. Another hang-up was that I couldn’t figure out how the world fit together. That’s one thing I liked about Rise… and Dawn… – the geography was clear. You knew who was where. This one started in those awesome rainforests, then moved to a snowscape, and then to the Sierras? Or Tahoe? The previous ones were strong in that they felt like our world. I don’t know what happened to it here. Bummer. Filed under: Planet of the Apes.
Arrival. Second viewing. (The first.) The mind-bending scifi stuff doesn’t dazzle as much, having seen it twice and read the story a few times. I like the sappiness, though, and I wish they’d play it up more. But I think if they had, I probably wouldn’t have liked it as much the first time…
Alien. Perfection. Still a five-star film. I love those Nostromo jackets!
Predator. Holds up! I forgot how fluid and pleasing some of the camerawork is here. The scene where they unload a zillion bullets into the jungle has a strange formalist beauty. Final fight just a wee too long.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. It’s not perfect, and I’m a little annoyed that they’re still making these… but, now that they are, I think this is the kind of story I’d like to see more of. Sort of putting some shape around the original 6-episode arc rather than extending it. I wish it were more melodramatic. Also a wee long and kind of a bad script? Dumb fan service (I assume we’re due for lots more) and the CGI Tarkin and Leia are huuuuuuge mistakes. Still, seeing Mendelsohn, Mikkelsen, and Whitaker in the same movie? What a treat! Much, much better than The Force Awakens. Filed under: Star Wars.
Star Trek: Beyond. These movies are getting worse. :( Hope they don’t keep going this route, where they turn into basically superhero films. I fear it’s too late. Filed under: Star Trek.
Interstellar. As much as I whine about Christopher Nolan films, he’s got some gifts. My experience the second time around was almost the reverse of my first viewing: I was feeling the family story, and the epic space adventure had me twiddling my thumbs. I need an alternate cut of this movie that removes the “let’s explain the science” interludes. Just gimme the melodrama. The heightened emo stuff just wrecked me.
The Thing. I feel like this one has been in the air a good bit recently. I… don’t understand all the hubbub. It’s fine. Just wasn’t for me.
10 Cloverfield Lane. One of those movies that takes a few different shapes. Start with a stalker suspense, then abduction horror, then bunker survival, then… well, ya gotta watch it. Love how a few new details surfacing makes you change what you’re rooting for. Good ride.
There was a lot of inherent cultural relativism in the science fiction I discovered then. It gave me the idea that you could question anything, that it was possible to question anything at all. You could question religion, you could question your own culture’s most basic assumptions. That was just unheard of—where else could I have gotten it? You know, to be thirteen years old and get your brain plugged directly into Philip K. Dick’s brain!
That wasn’t the way science fiction advertised itself, of course. The self-advertisement was: Technology! The world of the future! Educational! Learn about science! It didn’t tell you that it would jack your kid into this weird malcontent urban literary universe and serve as the gateway drug to J. G. Ballard.
And nobody knew. The people at the high school didn’t know, your parents didn’t know. Nobody knew that I had discovered this window into all kinds of alien ways of thinking that wouldn’t have been at all acceptable to the people who ran that little world I lived in.
Paris Review – William Gibson, The Art of Fiction No. 211
Arrival. I loved the short story collection that this movie draws from. I wish they’d played the extremes just a bit more. Maybe get even more nerdy with the science/linguistics, and even more fragmented/playful with the chronology. Can’t have everything, though. It’s about as good an adaptation as you can ask for that’d still get wide release.