…and the quest to see everything

Posts tagged “sci-fi

InsideOut Hangover: …Lesbian Space Alien…


It’s kind of sad that Madeleine Olnek’s Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks the Same is my first Ed Wood movie, but the experience was fun in this new incarnation. The title, however, isn’t that self-explanatory, only referring to an ad that one of the three lesbian space aliens (Cynthia Kaplan) have given out, their mission on earth is to get their hearts broken.

Shot in cheap digital black and white, the main focus is on Zoinx (Susan Ziegler) who finds her Jane (Lisa Haas), without telling the latter that her stay on Earth isn’t permanent, that Jane is only part of her mission to rid herself on earthling love. But while they’re together, their budding love, the banter of the spies watching the, and the aliens’ creative behaviour actually seems natural. 4/5.


Indefensible – Go Speed Racer Go!


I actually won passes to Go Speed Racer Go! at a CINSSU Free Friday Film screening but I was in college and busy and lazy so I didn’t. Norman Wilner of NOW Magazine has talked trash about this movie for at least a week now, but judging from the trailer, and as a gay man, the art direction in Speed Racer doesn’t offend me. Yet.

Speed Racer is playing at the Toronto Underground Cinema at 7 at night as part of the Andrew Parker’s Defending the Indefensible series. Proceeds go to charity.


BTTF: Made in Man’s Image


ph. Universal

The opening credits of Back to The Future is reminiscent of one of the first sequences of Little Children. Just because both movies relatively show the same objects during their first scenes doesn’t mean that Todd Field referenced Robert Zemeckis. Besides, Little Children chooses a montage while Back to the Future pans the length of Dr. Emmett Brown’s (Christopher Lloyd) counter top in a long take. But we like to play this game? What else do those movies have in common? Which characters stand for who? Knick-knacky tendencies of outsider characters from suburbia? I’ll get to suburbia later.

Watching this movie in my childhood, this probably got me starting to say…

I believe that Biff Tannen (Thomas J. Wilson) is partly at fault for my bad choices in men. On a trivia contest before the TIFF screening of this film, my friend Sarah answered that Billy Zane was in this movie. I couldn’t see him until catching that still.

Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) enters 1955 and is a little freaked out by the cleanliness of 1955 Hill Valley. He comes back and finds 1985 ‘great,’ as if having a reverse George Bailey moment because he doesn’t come back to perfection, he comes back to what is his. I’m projecting here, but we’ve been desensitized to the discomfort of seeing a homeless person or a porno theatre that I understand Marty’s slight comfort in seeing those things.

Peter Kuplowsky of TwitchFilm introduced Back to the Future and, paraphrasing, called it Reagan, pro-car propaganda but enjoyable and excellently made. Which makes me question myself in defending the film’s politics and its idealization of suburbia as the meeting point between the urban dirt and rural domesticity, that Marty justifies George (Crispin Glover) earning the right to be routinely mean to his wife’s (Lea Thompson) rapist because there’s a looming threat that it could be the other way around? It’s the fine-tuned innocent approach to this lack of innocence that makes this movie a little richer.


Few more thoughts on Limitless


I work in a ‘cheese factory,’ where it was magazine day on Monday and Limitless stars Bradley Cooper and Abbie Cornish are on the cover of next month’s “Marie Claire.”

ph. justjared

This is on the buy list, after the Wasikowska ‘W’ and the Rihanna ‘Vogue.’ This is also on the buy list even if I’m more than five years too young for the magazine’s demographic. Just saying.

My review for Limitless for Anonymous Material (Sam did it better) went online yesterday. Sam has second thoughts about NZT, I called shenanigans on Eddie’s career change, and I have another one.

Carl van Loon asks Eddie Mora (Bradley Cooper) – not to be confused with Edward Murrow – about how he knows which stocks are going to rise and fall and the latter answers something vague about knowing the algorithm of human behaviour and interests, helping him find out stock trends.

Why didn’t Carl’s (Robert de Niro) right hand man just ask Eddie about  the rise and decline of a specific stock? Carl is reputed to be a quiz master and trumps novices, and I wanted to see that in action. I would also rather be bored by a few seconds of expository dialogue than be left hanging.

Or maybe the film’s worldview chooses determinism over free will, Eddie knowing that every company or honcho has its time. He can’t pretend to have all the answers in case one of them bites him back. The film ends with Eddie bragging about how he can see 50 scenarios, knowing how to beat someone with their first move. ‘Why’ is, then, an inferior question compared to opportunities he can grasp from the said scenarios.

The assistant instead just calls Eddie a quack. It’s easier and time efficient to dismiss someone than to further test him.

I also like what it does with the idea of knowledge, that Eddie laces it with his own opinions, as he does with law theory and Renaissance European imperialism, the latter a reference hinting to the volatile nature of the Wall Street culture that Eddie is getting himself into. Spoiler, but Eddie’s victory has little to do with whether what he’s saying is right.

Or that there’s no rift or resentment between old ascetic Eddie and new suit Eddie. Being a few years younger than Eddie, I should prefer the old one over the new Wall Street one but writer artsy types are only tolerable if they’re successful and/or content. Or do director Neil Burger and his writers Leslie Dixon and Alan Glynn think that old Eddies can’t be successful? This is a B-movie, I should stop thinking too much about it.


The Last Starfighter


The Last Starfighter was playing at the TIFF Bell Lightbox as part of their 80’s thingamajig every Saturday at 2. They’re also doing Gremlins today and Back to the Future, if they haven’t done it already. The looks of the star of The Last Starfighter reminds me of Armie Hammer, so if necking with Leonardo di Caprio in movies don’t work, he has a sci-fi reboot waiting for him! Oh wait, this guy plays twins too?

Let me explain. Alex Rogan lives in the 1980’s in some trailer park in California or the Southwest that isn’t as trashy as the one in “Trailer Park Boys,” there’s a video game outside the diner of that trailer park. He exceeds the top score, he gets sent in outer space because of this seemingly inconsequential achievement. A Beta version of him is sent down to take his place to keep the residents less suspicious, even if he mopes around and doesn’t like it when his girlfriend licks his ear.

He’s not the greatest actor. He doesn’t particularly sell me when he doesn’t want to be a starfighter. He has this wide-eyed inflection when he learns something new about outer space. But he does capable service to his double role, the original is sometimes angry both about his old and new predicament, Beta Alex takes the Earthlings with a humourous stride. And he has great timing when acting against himself too. I’ll also point out the deadpan ridiculous of Alex’s girlfriend and the rest of the trailer park residents, the most embarrassingly stereotypical acting from a black person in between Oscar Polk and the Wayans Brothers and the fake British inflection camp of the space villains because apparently there’s no other way to act out the latter. The enemy alien has a red space monocle snapping into place once in a while. The last time that happens, he says his last words “We die,” and he dies. It’s priceless.

As an 80’s sci-fi movie, the effects are pathetic compared to today’s standards. The space battles feel like the video game he plays back home, but with blocks and lasers. The good thing about the terrible, early stage CGI era is that the crew would actually make sets for the interior spaces outside Earth. The sets are well thought out and make sense for their contexts. Half of the film also takes place in and near the trailer park. The effects in this part economical like a shooting star, a sign that an enemy has landed. We see the tacky decorations of the kooky old trailer park residents, the truck with the token sexually rambunctious but not destructive cowboy friend and non-speaking token Asian friend and so forth.

There’s also something I like in the composition of this shot of Alex’s anguish, vegetation, sign, diner. There are a lot of contrasts that play well together, both earthly and magical. There’s also another shot where the good aliens parade Alex around the dark surrounding s suggest nighttime but actually mean the film can’t afford a night sky or special space traffic lights.

This film came out in 1984, a banner year not for the Academy but for genre films. The Terminator also came out this year.


Alien Resurrection vs. Freddy Got Fingered


I’m writing about these two movies because of Andrew Parker’s Indefensible series, as he presents films that respected Toronto film critics will publicly defend. Among the trailers they showed before showing Alien Resurrection are the worst uses of a recent Oscar winner, a trailer of a vehicle for a guy who’s winning now, and another of the Chad (Tom Green).

Alien Resurrection falls within the wrong hands, with the writer of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the director of Amelie. I asked critic John Semley about ‘race,’ which is the wrong word to describe the relationship between Ripley Clone #8 (Sigourney Weaver), the aliens, the crew, the space pirates (including Gary Dourdan and Ron Perlman) and a robot (Winona Ryder). Three of those groups work against the aliens and get out of the mother ship. Every alien or monster movie is practically a metaphor for race. The proper word is the ‘other.’ I didn’t want to be that guy in the theatre bringing up film jargon and taking a genre movie too seriously.

ph. 20th Century Fox

Anyway, Alien is a perfect movie because of its evocation of a style and simplicity, making the aliens mere intruders. The token mad scientist (Brad Dourif) disciplines the bred and captured aliens makes an even relationship between human and alien. Both perform unjustified violence against each other instead of only one side doing it to the other. The first scene of the film shows the scientists perversely fawning at her, calling her perfect. Watching Ripley eventually look at botched clones and imperfect versions of herself, and having to kill those clones out of disgust on what the scientist have done to them, and how perfection is achieved, and how people draw lines against each other.

Old adage says that  Weaver hasn’t been good since The Ice Storm (released in the festival circuit earlier that year) an opinion she shuts down by elevating the film through moments within her performance. Half of the movie is ridiculous, culminating in a confrontation inside a smaller spaceship between Ripley and an alien who is also technically her son. John Semley made fun of the alien son being made of oatmeal, and watching the crappy special effects of his innards being splattered throughout outer space, but we go back to Ripley’s face, and Weaver’s sincerity and mourning doesn’t seem laughable nor out-of-place.

So what do the movies have in common? Well, viscera, inter-species relationships, parental relationships and the name Betty. The name of the pirate ship in Alien Resurrection is Betty and Freddy Got Fingered‘s protagonist Gord (Green) has a girlfriend named Betty (Marisa Coughlan). Trailers before Freddy Got Fingered include Arnold making fun of himself and a reason why I respect Chris Evans and Jamie Pressley.

Show two gross things, put one random image or plot point after another and 51% of us will be laughing. Every shock comedian probably knows this. It’s like the animation company’s CEO’s (I still don’t understand when Anthony Michael Hall became sexy) reaction to Gord’s father (Rip Torn), the absurdity of the violence is so physical that it seems measured and entertaining. What does a girl on a wheelchair who likes forced fellatio have to do with the Eiffel Tower? And why does Tom Green play a piano sausage and be called crass and excessive, yet when Dali and Bunuel put dead donkeys on top of a piano they’re called avant-garde? Well, even some critics looking at this film from retrospect have referred to it as a Dadist experiment. Its pacing is different. Neither does it compromise to make Gord cheesy and sympathetic like most gross out comedies end up doing to its protagonists.

I also love how Coughlan is the love interest instead of Green’s ex-wife Drew Barrymore, who instead plays a crazy receptionist. Drew’s sunk to a lot of depths but she wasn’t gonna permanently sabotage herself with this one. Well played. Coughlans’ the MVP of this movie. I’ll always have respect for Tom Green as with any guy who pronounces his T’s (I’m starting to notice that comedians and comic actors today have better enunciation than dramatic ones). Everyone else plays one note that go well together in this skull-beating symphony that is Freddy Got Fingered.

Oh, and after the movie, Mr. Wilner started impersonating Tom Green impersonation as if he’s fighting for the film’s final cut. That was great.


Book: I am Number Four


Pittacus Lore’s I Am Number Four has a film adaptation now. The trailer includes love interest Sarah (Diana Argon), falling from a building for protagonist John (Alex Pettyfer) to catch him. Sarah’s reaction is to look at John lustily. One of John’s lines include ‘You have no idea what I’m capable of,’ sounding like something that would make me call an abuse shelter.

I had to choose either the original cover art or one with a quote from film producer Michael Bay, who is apparently a book critic now.

Norlinda wrote about I am Number Four echoing traditions of  teen sci-fi. Superman. Buffy, especially that John’s survival depends as much on his peer support, ironic since Henri (Timothy Olyphant) advises him to keep to himself. They belong to an endangered alien race, the Lorien, exiled from their planet, hunted by another alien race, the Mogadorians.

Yes, I’m the asshole who will talk about the implicit politics in a book about teenage aliens. The prologue begins with a “Heart of Darkness”-y depiction of the Congo, the setting for Three’s death. John is one of nine powerful aliens on Earth, the death of Three personally hurting him, thus the interconnected nature of their relationship that transcends skin colour and geography.

John is both an alien and all-American. John also talks about a fear of cities, where the Mogadorians might blend in easier, yet has a love-hate relationship with his new home. Cynical at first, he eventually subscribes to the mythology connected to the aptly named Paradise, Ohio. He also recounts the histories of his planet and the Mogadorians’, both having dealt with overpopulation and pollution, the former dealing through change – liberals – the latter choosing viral destruction – conservatives.

Lore writes the book’s prologue in clunky third person. Thankfully the rest is in first person, Lore writing John’s narration with such attention to specific objects, making his world as tangible as he is intelligent. The last chapters of the book tell a drawn out fight between him and the Mogadorians that I lost attention on the details. Lore also breaks the Frankenstein rule but that also humanizes the Mogadorian beasts.

Henri also tells John that Loriens and humans have procreated, siring great men like Julius Caesar, which is weird because I’m pretty sure a 15-year old girl can go to Wikipedia and trace Julius Caesar’s provenance by at least two generations. And it’s great that Lore includes an asshole like Julius Caesar into their fold.

Lore is a collaboration between Jobie Hughes and James Frey. In page 264, they write ‘…force causes it to smash into a million little pieces.’ This happens again in page 300-something. In between those references, page 333, there’s a reference about a drug movie. Page 439 is the second to the last page of the book, where Lore indulges himself with a Milton reference.