Archive for the ‘sci fi’ category

Godzilla vs. Kong!

June 12, 2018


Deep inside me, there abides a ten-year-old fox-boy who never grew up.  For that reason, I can still get excited about a Godzilla vs. King Kong remake, even though it will have been 58 years since a movie bore that title.  Hopefully the special effects will have improved significantly in that time interval.  Just don’t get your popcorn out yet or try to buy movie passes; Godzilla vs. Kong isn’t slated to arrive until May of 2020…

For what is sure to be an epic addition to the MonsterVerse, the film director promises a dark film in which there will be a clear winner!  That’s right, no ambiguous ending for once.  Kong, last seen in Skull Island set in the 1970’s, will have weathered the intervening decades by becoming older, battle-scarred, and bigger. His size will accordingly be more of a match for the redoubtable Godzilla, my personal fave.  I’m sure that there will be an abundance of fires, explosions, and destruction of real estate…look, they’re lowering property values!  Perhaps the battling behemoths can level Trump Tower…

 

“We Are Gone,” The Terror, Episode 10

May 22, 2018

All good things must come to an end, and so The Terror wrapped up its tenth and final season episode (“We Are Gone”) with more than a bit of Grand Guignol, complete with cannibalism and the Tuunbaq ripping into Hickey and his rebellious men, literally tearing the sadistic psychopath in two before succumbing to its poisonous diet. You are what you eat, after all…

We were given more of a close-up of the Inuit monster in this conclusive episode, his countenance a disturbing mixture of human and bestial elements, almost resembling someone’s crazy old uncle; maybe Uncle Fester of The Addams Family. A “spirit who dresses itself as an animal,” the mythological creature was said to consume not only the flesh but also the soul of its victims. 

Where human flesh eating was concerned, there are suggestions in the historical evidence that some cannibalism occurred in the actual Franklin Expedition, although it was ramped up for horrific effect in the Dan Simmons novel as well as the series adaptation of it. In this television adaptation, surgeon Goodsir poisoned himself unknown to his captors and slit his wrists, his body then becoming a fatal feast for them. Other subtle differences between the book and the screen adaptation occurred as well, and without issuing spoilers I did find the novel’s ending more satisfying. If you were captivated by the televised series, check out the book as well as a really well done and worthwhile horror tale…

“Terror Camp Clear” Episode of “The Terror”

May 8, 2018

With all hell breaking loose both within and without on episode 8 of The Terror, Captain Fitzjames unleashed a rocket on the rampaging Tuunbaq running amok in their camp, hitting the over-sized, long-necked polar bear-like creature a good shot but basically just changing its course.  This was a very cool use of retro technology, and Fitzjames looked good while deploying it, showing courage under extreme duress.  Mid-19th century weaponry just wasn’t up to the job, sadly…

The climatic battle scene followed an episode fueled by paranoia and rebellion in which seaman Hickey almost staged a successful mutiny after blaming his slaughter of two crew mates on an Inuit family who were then killed in reprisal by the Erebus/Terror crews.  Hickey then whipped the camp into a frenzy by rumors that an Inuit counter-attack was imminent, using it as justification to seize arms and distribute them among his followers.  When Hickey’s ruse was discovered and countered, we were fixing to see a hanging when a cocaine-addled crewman Collins posed a distraction, staggering in and closely followed by the Tuunbaq monster, who was either irate that natives had been killed or was uncontrolled by the departure of the shaman-like Lady Silence.

Anyways, Hickey escaped in the confusion of the Tuunbaq’s killing spree together with sympathizers and captives, and in alienating the Inuit population the expedition’s members have lost their best remaining chance of survival. With their bodies becoming covered with loathsome sores from scurvy and lead poisoning, things will continue to go downhill from here in the two episodes remaining of The Terror

“Horrible From Supper” on “The Terror”

May 1, 2018

Smelling human flesh burning in the fire which had taken down the carnival in the previous episode, a starving and troubled crewman confesses to ship’s surgeon Goodsir that it smelled good.  “My nose and my stomach, they don’t know horrible from supper.  But I do!,” he agonizes.  This exchange explains the episode’s title, one in which the men of the doomed Franklin Expedition begin to have more to fear from themselves than from the supernatural.  As a Walt Kelly character from the comic strip Pogo once remarked, “We have met the enemy, and he is us!” While the Tuunbaq  monster does not make an appearance, his handiwork is seen in the form of the decapitated heads of the advance expedition sent out in episode 2 for civilization from the becalmed ships…poor devils didn’t make it further than 18 miles away before having their heads handed to them, quite literally.

Abandoning the ice-locked Erebus and Terror ships, the crew drags supplies and rowboats on sledges over the frozen terrain, with their badly canned food proving over half rancid and 100% lead-tainted.  The effects of the lead poisoning are becoming increasingly visible, with acts of violent madness emerging to layer onto the on-going grinding hardships that are inexorably wearing down the British seamen, geared now for physical survival rather than adventurous discovery.  This is “misery porn,” and the worst lies yet ahead.  

We are given glimpses of that grim future in the deteriorating mental health of a number of the crew who are beginning to turn from their fellow mates to acts of rebellion and even murder against them.  With the captain’s dog being surreptitiously harvested as food and an officer initiating first contact with an Inuit group brutally slain by the mutinous (and now mad) Cornelius Hickey, it’s time to start your countdown to cannibalism clocks ticking…


“A Mercy” Episode on, “The Terror”

April 23, 2018

When the going gets tough, it’s time to throw a party as a counter to the growing anger, despair, and psychosis growing among the crews of Erebus and Terror, as we are shown in Episode 6 of the series. The party is a wild one, thrown in an enormous tent rigged by the seamen, complete with drinking, hot tub bathing, and men wearing dresses, ahem!  There are seamen wearing animal head masks…yes, 19th century furries!   Rum is even being fed to the brain-dead crewman Private Heather, his skull torn open in an earlier Tuunbaq attack.

Unfortunately, one of their own, Dr. Stanley, has quietly gone mad, and he seals off the tent before dousing it and himself with oil, and igniting both.  Stanley’s arms-spread self-immolation is evocative of a scene from The Thing from Another World, and is perhaps the most horrible thing in the episode, rivaled only by Lady Silence‘s staggering bloody entrance, her tongue self-removed in an attempt to forge a shamanistic bond with the Tuunbaq.  We do see the creature briefly, his face a disquieting mix of ursine and human features.

With their food supply starting to run low and the canned food producing recognized symptoms of lead poisoning, expedition leadership now plans to abandon both their mission and their vessels in a risky trek on foot hundreds of miles south to civilization. The ill-fated party was an effort to boost morale prior to food rationing, climatic suffering, and the further predations of their Tuunbaq adversary, although clearly it had the reverse effect, adding also to the mounting body count.  

With only four episodes left to run, we unlike the poor devils in the Royal Navy know that this will end badly, because as Captain Crozier observed, “The place wants us dead…”


“First Shot a Winner, Lads” on “The Terror”

April 17, 2018

Well, the Royal Navy would appear to have fully engaged the Tuunbaq on Season 1, Episode 5 of The Terror, with blood drawn on both sides but the British at least putting on a good show for Queen and country.- –Well played, Lads!  We are given a bit more of a glimpse of the creature, which is set on fire, hit with a cannon shot, and survives just to run off into the snow mist!  “He’ll be back,” we can almost imagine Arnold Schwarzenegger saying…

I like to watch this show in a darkened room to heighten the atmospheric effects, with the pursuit and battle sequence of the episode taking place at night in a blinding snowstorm in the bitter cold.  The filming techniques almost make you feel like you are there as part of the beleaguered crew, about to receive a severe thrashing at the paws and claws of something incomprehensible that moves on its own terms, and may not even be destructible by mortal weapons.  A vicious and cunning predator is not the only problem the crew faces, having flesh cut off due to frostbite, an alcoholic captain, and the matter of spoiling and lead tainted food that is slowly poisoning them.  The enigmatic Inuit woman named Lady Silence breaks her reticence to convey that she doesn’t control the creature, and is really as afraid of it as the English are.  “It’s bound to no one,” she says…

Dread is a difficult emotion to convey in horror, and many horror tales fail to convey it at all.  It is a refined, rarified sense of fear.  Dread is subtle and builds slowly out of bits and pieces, taking its own good time.  The Terror is developing a sense of dread as effectively as about anything seen in recent years on television, and I look forward to the upcoming matches of the Royal Navy versus the supernatural Tuunbaq…

“Lost in Space” Revamped on Netflix…

April 14, 2018

The original Lost in Space tv series ran from 1965 to 1968, and was set in the then-distant future year of 1997!  In the Netflix reboot, the year is 2048, the Robinson family is still with us, but Dr. Smith is a woman!  “Oh the pain, the pain!,” as the original Smith memorably would whine.

At least they got the robot (whose name was “Robot”) right.  He no longer looks like he was cobbled together from a vacuum cleaner and several kitchen appliances.  In fact, this robot is not even of human construction, but is alien in origin, and has a dark past.  Although the robot doesn’t sing, ” I am a cybernetic hero,” he will say, “Danger, Will Robinson!”  Gone from the series, however, is the cheesy, camp-classic fun that made the original series a hoot.  This version is serious, gritty, filled with Hollywood explosions, and almost no fun at all.  Like many reboots, it has very little reason to exist.

A movie version of Lost in Space from 1998 with Matt LeBlanc was darker and had its moments, but was commercially unsuccessful.  In this reconceptualization, the Robinson family is not on a solo mission but is one of a number of colonist families trying to populate the Alpha Centauri system.  The Jupiter II winds up sinking into a frozen lake, and most of the first episode apparently involves trying to retrieve daughter Judy from said lake before she buys the farm.  Will Robinson thankfully plays less of a central role in this series than he did in the 1960’s original, allowing some updating and expansion of the other characters.  

The ten-episode series is family-friendly and action or crisis oriented, but while drawing from the original series, fails to recreate its spirit or substitute anything in its stead, making it truly lost in space…