Tag Archives: movies about space

Geostorm

geostorm-1280-1508455954341_1280wGeostorm takes incoherence to a whole new level, one I never thought possible. A guy dies on a space station for reasons that are entirely unclear and it seemed to me I had missed something. I rewound because I thought I missed an important detail, but I didn’t. It is just an unexplained and unexpected event almost 20 minutes into a 109 minute movie. The music cues told me this event was very mysterious, and eventually it ends up being a super important plot point because it brings Gerard Butler into the mix (because he designed the space station in question). Come to think of it, Butler as a space station designer is one of the most believable aspects of this film.  That’s Geostorm in a nutshell.

Geostorm is a ripoff of Armageddon, right down to tragedies in Asia and hail the size of basketballs, and Butler is asked to be both Ben Affleck and Bruce Willis. He is not up to the task to even being William Fichter (the guy with the gun in space). But rest assured, there is tons of drama to come, and it is set to the most over-dramatic and generic music imaginable. And the drama keeps on building as the scientists theorize that a Geostorm is on the way, and it turns out that Butler and his brother have quite a complex relationship, and a secret code, and lots of sciency gibberish to share with each other. At least I think these things were an attempt to add depth to these characters, but it all comes off as total garbage, and a pale imitation of other disaster movies that weren’t all that great in the first place. The worst part is, there’s not even a Geostorm for, like, ever, as we are forced to wait and wait for the disaster to actually occur while the scientists overhype it (by a lot).

I am quick to make fun of Michael Bay, because he makes lots of big, dumb movies that make little to no sense. Well, Geostorm made me feel kind of bad about having done that, repeatedly.  Mr. Bay, I am truly sorry for ever calling you a talentless hack because  Geostorm makes Armageddon look like 2001: A Space Odyssey.  In short, as a film, Geostorm is a disaster on a global scale. Fortunately, this is one disaster you can avoid all by yourself, without needing to prove that climate change is real.

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Life

When I think about space, my limited imagination often goes to the arrogant American astronauts boldly planting a flag on the moon. In fact, there are now 6 American flags on american-flag-moonthe moon, one from each Apollo mission that landed there. Of course, none of these flags would be identifiably American any more, the stars and stripes long since bleached away by radiation from the sun. And none of them ever rippled in the breeze as the famous photo would have you believe (there is no wind on the moon, there is no atmosphere on the moon). It was a ruse devised by NASA and enabled by Neil Armstrong. The flag has a hidden metal rod along the top of the fabric; when Armstrong planted it, he gave the metal bar a push and the flag “waved.” It was a cheat, but after declaring a giant leap on behalf of “mankind”, the Americans wanted a way to tell the world “We got here first.”

Why am I rambling about the flags on the moon? Well, mostly because I don’t think there’s a single inch of film in all of Life where director Daniel Espinosa could plant his flag. It’s a complete retread. And I don’t mean that it’s bad, just that it owes a lot to space movies that have come before it, and it doesn’t have anything original to add to the “trapped in space” trope.

There’s questionable judgment and the flagrant flogging of protocol. There are plot holes to rival black holes. If you think about it at all you’ll be sucked into the vacuum of space where there’s no enjoyment of anything. But there is a way to enjoy this film: lay back and enjoy the ride. Because what Life is is a pretty intense thriller. My anxiety was so high I life3had to look away from the screen and focus on my gold Converse for safety’s sake. It was so tense I had the bones in Sean’s right hand nearly as mangled as a certain someone‘s in the movie.

Basically, six surprisingly attractive astronauts are hanging out in the International Space Station, waiting for a special delivery, some samples from Mars. Their mission is to probe the samples that arrive, and before long they’ve found the first incontrovertible evidence of life on Mars, which is cool for about 10 seconds before it starts trying to eat them. This is of course their own damn fault for pushing the thing out of hibernation in the first place. Note to everyone: curiosity killed the cat. So yeah, this alien thingy becomes very strong and oddly sentient and wildly out of control. The astronauts’ lives are in imminent and immediate danger, which is hard to care about because we hardly know them before the single cell from Mars becomes the monster that threatens humanity. And that’s the other slight problem is that the lives of the astronauts are overshadowed by the greater threat against all of humankind.

Luckily, the acting is pretty good. None of the characters is all that distinguishable but between Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds, there’s enough charisma to circle the earth roughly 16 times a day (Zing! that’s an international space station joke, y’all!).

Okay, I’m quitting while I’m ahead. Life: fun but forgettable.

The Only Star Wars Trilogy that Matters

So you may have heard that my darling husband Sean has used my recovery from back surgery as the perfect excuse to finally induce me to watch the very thing I’vimagesCANZSY7Ve spent my whole life avoiding – Star Wars. No, I hadn’t seen a single one, and no, I never wanted to. And believe me, going 30 years in North America without seeing Star Wars is like going 30 years without a pregnancy scare: nearly impossible, and not without effort (I did both, and if I had to break the seal on one, damn right I’m glad it was George Lucas’s baby and not Sean’s).

Sean successfully dragged me to see The Force Awakens back in December, and I had to admit I didn’t hate it. I thought it was fun, and I knew that with a little oxy in my system, my resolve would crumble. And it meant so much to Sean, well, fine: let’s call it one of those marital compromises I usually think are a load of bullocks (after all, compromise usually just means you’re both a bit disappointed – might as well just make me happy, right, dear?).

First we watched the prequels, Episodes I-III. I can’t say I was inspired to go on with Star Wars OG, but you all were nearly as persistent as Sean, and so with minimal doping and only a little more whining, we did.

Did I love them???????

No.

Sorry, guys. I don’t know why I’m apologizing. I just know these films are beloved. They mean something to people, Sean included. They were part of his childhood. He was once a little boy who looked at the stars differently after this movie. Han-Shot-First-meme-Star-Wars-BlogThey informed the way he’d watch movies for the rest of his life, the way he’d tell stories, even, the way he knew good and evil. Fuck.

But me? I’m an old lady with half a back who’s watching them for the first time with my 2016 eyes. Which is not a comment on the technology. I think the prequels versus the original trilogy makes a strong statement in favour of practical effects. No, what I mean is: I’ve been living in a Star Wars-soaked world my whole life. They debuted before I was born. Our popular culture is not just influenced by these movies, but built around them. Never having seen the movies, I could still tell you what sound a light saber makes, or at least the sound young boys (and let’s face it – young men) make when they pretend play them.

So I know who Darth Vader is. SPOILER ALERT! I know he’s “the greatest villain ever.” And I know he’s the father. I know the iconic music John Williams wrote for him. And I know he was a socially awkward, whiny emo kid with weird, murdery impulses and an inability to talk to women. See how I said “spoiler alert”? That’s like, something that’s evolvdarthvader_starwarsed in the last 3 years, not the last 30. This stuff has just permeated culture at large. But in real life? Darth Vader doesn’t seem all that scary to me. I mean, Vader elevated the game, sure. But I’ve only ever exited in this elevated world. You got to compete.

But also: everyone complained about how Jar Jar Binks was so damned annoying in the prequelsc3po, but hello – isn’t he just the new C3PO? I wanted to find a wrench and beat his arms straight with it. Shut up  you insipid, whining good for nothing sorry excuse for a robot (any droid built by Anakin would be whiny though, wouldn’t it?).

And Luke? What a wimp. How is it possible that the Skywalkers are constantly called upon to save the galaxy, or the Jedi way, when in fact the male lineage in that family is so damned lame (props to the ladies – Leia and Rey are tough as shit)?lukeleia They whine and bumble and it makes me feel like the Jedis aren’t  super-cool badasses like I’ve been led to believe, but a group of guys probably living in their parents’ basement, meeting up to wear costumes and braid each other’s hair and play magic card games and pretend that not getting laid is a “code of honour” when it’s really just “never gonna happen” and “beyond their imaginations” anyway.

star-wars-9gagSo yeah, if you were 9 when you first saw this, I get it. Super cool space ships, weapons just aching to be turned into toys, and practically no kissing. Heaven! Or, you know, hell if you’re me.

The Force is Forced Upon me

It was only a month ago when I took in my first Star Wars movie, ever (The Force Awakens). The original trilogy was a big deal to Sean, as a kid, but he failed incite the same domnic-west-star-warspassion in me. Lucky for him, I underwent a hefty back surgery a couple of weeks ago and ever since then have been a) trapped in bed b) under the heavy influence of drugs. So it was under these influences that Sean took advantage of his poor, sickly wife, and we tackled the first three movies in the series, Episodes I, II, and III.

The Phantom Menace: Watching these movies turns out to be like playing peekaboo with celebrities. I may be in and out of consciousness, but I’m pretty sure I’ve spied Dominic West (of The Wire) as a guard, and handmaids greatly resembling Keira Knightley and Sofia Coppola. I like Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson together, but almost everything outside of those two feels a bit silly. I’m definitely not a fan of Jar Jar Binks and while I’m not sure he was intentionally meant to be a racist caricature, he does make me cringe every time he talks. Interesting to see Darth Maul in action – I’ve long heard this DotF_TPM.pngvillain praised, and am disappointed that he turns out to be over and done with so quickly. Definitely digging his double-bladed light saber, though his fight with the two Jedis was uneven for me, sometimes thrilling, other times downright implausible. What I find most unforgivable in this movie are the cheesy screen wipes. Shouldn’t we, as a society, be above those by now?

Attack of the Clones: This one feels familiar when it opens – maybe a little The Fifth Element-ish? I also spent way too much time wondering – is that Rose Byrne? (yes, it is) and – that’s not Joel Edgerton, is it? dorme-star-wars(again, it is). Again I’m finding Ewan McGregor to be the best thing about this movie, and am missing Liam Neeson. Hayden Christensen isn’t great but mostly I’m stuck on why a photos-star-wars-attack-of-the-clones-23124364-1600-1200Queen and Senator would be attracted to such a whiny kid (last movie there was an 8 year age difference between the actors; this movie there’s none). I’m having a hard time keeping track of good guys and bad guys. I’m very WTF about Jimmy Smits appearing – um, really? Jimmy Smits? And same with The Phantom Menace, the very evident over-usage of green screens is tiring and flat. Also I’m wondering how it is that every time someone fights, they’re either on a very narrow bridge, or on the rim of a very big hole. Seems unlikely.

Revenge of the Sith: Whoa, this one’s got quite the body count. There’s a lot of beheadings\behandings\beleggings going on. And Anakin catching on fire? Brutal. And it star-wars-episode-iii-revenge-of-the-sith-hd-movie-2005-4goes on a for a LONG time. I was really feeling that Anakin’s back story was insufficient to explain why he’d gone over to the dark side but he might just be crispy enough to warrant it after all. As a fan of the original trilogy, Sean had a lot of problems with the prequels, not least of all because everything is so damned shiny and new in these movies. CGI makes everything look sleek and sparkly. All the ships and robots are rendered flawlessly, a huge contrast to the more practical effects used in the original movies, but chronologically, it makes no sense that 30 years later, the technology looks so much clunkier. I noticed that things like R2D2 and Vader’s mask are also so sleek that they end up looking like cheap plastic. But I’m having an even harder time justifying Padme’s death scene. Lost the will to live? Oh, is that an official medical diagnosis now? Look, lady, I’m sorry your first marriage didn’t work out and your husband turned out to be a bit of a dick (although let’s face it: Darth Vader is much sexier than joel-edgerton-star-warswhiny, emo Anakin, an entitled millennial from another millennium) but you can’t just check out. She was a fighter this whole time, politically savvy and a better shot than any of her male counterparts, but she can’t face raising her babies alone? Come on! So the babies get split up, to be raised by Jimmy Smits and Joel Edgerton. Is that weird? Yes it’s weird! Almost as weird as creepy little Hayden Christensen somehow morphing into James Earl Jones. That’s the kind of math that only George Lucas can account for.

 

So what did I think? I was as underwhelmed as I always suspected I’d be. These movies aren’t shitting all over my childhood since I still haven’t seen the original trilogy, but at no point was I glad that there were 3 whole movies to sit through. I never cared to see more. I never felt really attached to the characters, although Yoda grew on me. What did the prequels do for you?

Where does that leave me on the original trilogy? I suppose I’ll have to see them. And seeing how I’m still bed-bound, I’m sure Sean will have plenty of opportunity to foist them upon me. I am defenseless against The Force.

 

TIFF 2015: The Martian

Since I read for leisure less than I’d like, it is rare for me to be hoping that Hollywood does justice to a book I absolutely loved.  Andy Weir’s The Martian is that book. Jay handed it to me a while back and the way she did, I knew it was something special.  The Martian is both the most accessible and most science-heavy science fiction novel I have ever read.  If you haven’t read it, do yourself a favour at some point and check it out.  You won’t regret it.

When I heard that Ridley Scott’s adaptation of The Martian was premiering at TIFF 2015, it went to the absolute top of my list.  And it quickly became clear I wasn’t the only one who felt that way.  Despite having a good window for our premium selections, the red carpet premiere was gone before we even had a chance at it.  But fortunately, Matt used his window to grab Jay and me a pair of tickets for the next (and only other) TIFF screening of The Martian.  We got to see it yesterday and it did not disappoint!

The movie is everything it could possibly be.  My only question as we were leaving the screening was whether there was a way they could have kept more in the movie, because some of the problems that arose in the book did not make it into the movie’s two-hour-plus run time.  But that’s inevitable and it’s not something I can criticize because the movie was expertly paced and there was nowhere to expand without losing momentum.  It’s a reason to re-read the book but not a fault of the movie.

The best part of the whole experience was seeing the spirit of the book preserved and celebrated.  As Jay pointed out afterward, while we lost a little Mark Watney time, we gained some time with the other characters, and it was a pleasure to get to know them better.  It might even be a better fit with the theme shared by the book and the movie, namely that when we all work together, we can accomplish remarkable things.  All we need is a little motivation.  There’s no villain here.  There are only challenging problems to be solved by the people who are determined to save one unlucky botanist, most notably the botanist himself.  It’s a joy to watch it all play out, especially against the backdrop of a Mars that is both desolate and vibrant.  The visuals are incredible from start to finish.  See The Martian in 3D if you can – it’s simply spectacular.

The Martian is perfect.  I can’t wait to see it again.

Father-Daughter Relationships in OUTER SPACE!

Two weeks ago, it was cop week, and we talked about our favouritest police movies through the ages, and I talked about the surprising number of cop movies I came across that took place in – well, not space, but the future, which is practically the same thing. I wouldn’t have guessed that, exploring movies featuring father-daughter relationships, I would come across as many, if not more, that take place in space (not even just the future, but honest to god outer space!).

Deep Impact – The lesser-known of the two asteroids-are-going-to-kill-us movies released in the late 90s. Morgan Freeman plays the president, telling his people that a comet is probably going to kill them all, but they’re doing their darndest to prevent it, fingers crossed! The movie follows deepimpact14435a few different story lines, but for the purpose of our theme, I’m focused on the reporter played by Tea Leoni, and her father, newly married to a woman just two years her senior. It’s clear this relationship has been strained at best for years. She’s closer to her mother, but with the asteroid bearing down on them, her mother takes a bunch of pills and bows out. Tea Leoni shares that she “feels like an orphan” – with her father. To his face. But he comes back at her with photos of their happier times and though she’s too angry with him to admit it, they do awaken memories for her. So she gives up her seat to safety and instead meets the end of the world with her father, his arms clutched tightly around her as the big wave hits. Her last word, “Daddy.” This movie made me wonder about death and regret. Did her mother’s death make her crave reconciliation with her father? Or was it staring her own death in the face that gave her the courage to forgive?

Armageddon – Harry (Bruce Willis) and Grace (Liv Tyler) Stamper have a weird relationship. She’s grown up under his watchful and protective eye on an oil tanker surrounded by dirty men. Harry is struggling to think of his baby girl as a woman though it’s clear she’s been the more mature of the two for years. Though they don’t always see eye to eye (particularly when it comes to her armageddon-movie-bruce-willis-and-liv-tylerboyfriend AJ – he takes a ‘no one’s good enough for my daughter’ attitude, and backs it up with a shotgun), he’s all she has and he promises to come back safely. Cue the blubbering when he inevitably does not come back – sacrifices himself, in fact, so that her boyfriend may live, and go on to marry his beloved daughter. Bruce used pictures of his own daughters to provoke the necessary emotions during their tearful goodbye scene, and of course Liv’s real-life dad Steven is crooning away on the soundtrack – no dry eye left behind.

Interstellar – This movie gives us a two for one deal in terms of fathers and daughters. First off, Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) decides to take on a multi-year mission to outer space to save the world, but try explaining that to his 10 year old daughter Murph, who can only hear goodbye. Because of the weird passage of time in space, she’ll be a grown woman when he comes back – if he comes back at all.

Meanwhile, NASA director Brand (Michael Caine) is also sending his own daughter Amelia (Anne hathaway) on the mission. It goes wrong pretty much right out of the gate; 3 hours on a planet’s interstellar-new-poster-wallpapersurface costs 21 years on Earth, which means her aged father is now dead, and Murph is now a grown woman (Jessica Chastain), and the heir-apparent at NASA. They discover that Caine never thought these missions would succeed – he was only trying to perpetuate mankind by sending embryos out into space. But as “luck” would have it, Cooper gets to sacrifice himself in order to save Ann Hathaway, but instead of dying he finds himself in 5-dimensional space, which allows him to use gravity to communicate with his 10 year old daughter. He sends a message that his future grown daughter Jessica Chastain will use to make the mission succeed after all. Thrown back through the manhole, he wakes up on the humanity-saving space station made possible by his daughter, a hundred year old woman who has lived just long enough to say goodbye to her dad, who hasn’t aged a day.

The Martian

In Andy Weir’s sci-fi novel The Martian, astronaut Mark Watney martiangets accidentally left behind on Mars. You can read my review of the book at Quickie Book Reviews (yes, she reads too!). Weir self-published his book on Amazon and it did so well that a real publisher acquired the rights, and that release did so well that some studio bought the rights to make it into a stupid space movie starring Matt Damon.

Which is all well and good. The book itself is pretty heavy on sciency stuff but I think the overall  themes of isolation, preservation, and space panic will translate pretty well on film. And Matt Damon’s got some serious experience being left alone on a planet (although as I recall, that one didn’t go so well). Then yesterday I heard Jessica Chastain was added to the cast, and I instantly worried that this was beginning to feel too much like an Interstellar sequel. Also rumoured to be starring: Kristen Wiig, Kate Mara, Michael Pena, Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean, and Donald Glover. Add director Ridley Scott into the mix and what could go wrong? It’s a super starry  mix, all reportedly working for less than their normal fees just to “get this thing made.”

So what do you think? Interested in seeing this one? It’s slated for release November 2015.

 

Update June 2015: The trailer’s just been released, and people are psyched!

Interstellar

Chris Nolan is a closet softie, and a not-so-secret fan of the happy ending, and has now twice been given the opportunity to kill of Anne Hathaway and not taken it. Spoiler Alert! Catwoman lives!

I recently sat in the very packed IMAX theatre at SilverCity for three hours that didn’t quite feel as long as they were because Nolan packs a lot in his punch and there wasn’t much I would cut. Even from the vague trailers, you knew going in this was going to be an epic story.

Confession: I came out of the movie very frustrated with a certain paradox that the audience is just supposed to accept because some space cowboy told us so. It felt like lazy story-telling to me.

And also: this is a cold movie. You’re going to want to bring a sweater.

Back to the story. We are presented with a very dusty, dirty future where the only viable crop left is corn (sidebar: as someone who grew up among the rows of corn in a small town named after it, this feels to me less like the future and more like hell). McConaughey is a not-too-happy-about-it farmer when he stumbles upon an underground bunker containing not only NASA, but mankind’s only hope for survival, aka, a secret mission to outerspace! And even though just moments ago this mission was going full steam ahead without him because he didn’t even know it existed, his help becomes so necessary that, with the burden of extinction on his shoulders, he leaves his motherless children behind (in the grouchy old hands of John Lithgow) and takes off for the stars in a search for a suitable planet to call home.

Then this film becomes about difficult choices. They’ve got to be made. And so characters constantly wonder aloud – to whom do we owe the most, our children, our species, ourselves? Oh man. So hard. And as my lovely sister pointed out, in case you missed an important decision being pondered, the music swells in all the right places, and very probably, someone will begin dramatically reciting a Dylan Thomas poem though they will miss its point and use it in all the wrong contexts. But they’re scientists, goddammit, not artists. Scientists who miss glaringly obvious data for convenient plot twists, but still.

interstellar

And the film is also about time. Not just time-is-running-out, though it is that too – the people on earth will not survive beyond existing generations. They are starving and suffocating. It’s about this “relativity” concept, how time runs differently out there, and just one ditzy-damsel-Anne Hathaway moment can cost McConaughey a decade with his kids. Those are maybe the most real moments of the film, when he’s just a father grappling with time’s passage, the agony of a sacrifice bigger than he ever knew or understood.

So yes. I had problems with how Nolan explains away the essential question of the film. He sets up something vague yet plausible but then ruins it with ego and pathos. I hated the basic premise of let’s throw away this earth and find another to rape and pillage. At times the film is downright bad (the “love transcends all” theme seems forced and childish and simplistic, and the ending is a little too Hollywood for my taste – Nolan, I expected better), but it’s also quite quite good in others. Visually stunning for sure. Haunting. Beautiful. Lonely in the right ways. And contains many nuggets of interest that are sure to be water-cooler talk for the rest of the month at least. Warts and all, it’s worth the watch.