Monthly Archives: December 2009

The Best (and worst) of 2009 Sci-Fi Films


by Irma Arkus

It was hard compiling the list of what we loved and didn’t this year. First I tried the top 10 list. 10 of what? Quite honestly, when I realized that I didn’t even love 10 films this year, I gave up and decided to just list off what I loved, hated, enjoyed…

So this is our 2009 list.

MOVIES WE LOVED

This year marks a new chapter in sci-fi cinematography. One in which Duncan Jones and Neil Blomkamp successfully carved out a place for science fiction in theaters, something that came from a left field, and left us truly excited.

Moon (2009) has been a great film to watch. Smart, dramatic, inspired by classic science fiction films such as Odyssey 2000, Moon manages to propel hard science fiction elements and tell a human story of Sam Bell, a mining worker stuck with a solitary 3-year contract on our moon. After an accident, Sam finds out that neither the corporation he works for nor himself may be what he initially assumed.

Fans of the film were so rabid in their support that they actively pursued Oscar noms from audiences in form of general pestering and petitions. Sam Rockwell’s performance can be only admired and the film does seem to have gained an Oscar push.

District 9 (2009) has been a smart action film with bold political overtones. Delivered by Neil Blomkamp, the film takes us to a parallel world in which aliens live in South African apartheid conditions. Stranded on earth, the alien species struggles with corporate and political interests. Wikus, a mid-level bureaucrat becomes affected by a compound that transforms him into an alien, having to fight for his own survival. A must-see, the film has done remarkably well in theatres, ensuring that Blomkamp’s next project will receive millions of audience members.

9 (2009)
The animated feature by Starz Animation has been received relatively well, but not spectacularly so. The feature does deserve your attention though, if for nothing else then for the endearing character of 9, a humanoid creation that fights for a new vision of the world devastated by environmental hazards.

More successful than Terminator Salvation, 9 depicts the post-apocalyptic world with a tangible, emotional story, of a devastated world in which this new creation is grasping for a life beyond war.

Yesterday Was A Lie (2009)
James Kerwin’s project that introduces a smart mix of genres bringing us a thinking sci-fi noir. Quantum physics meets film noir, the film oozes with beautiful characters and female lead Hoyle, who delivers us a non-linear storyline and fantastic performances by Kipleigh Brown and Chase Masterson.

This independently produced gem was struggling to find its feet, and if you haven’t seen it yet, I suggest you get a copy, stat.

I also suggest you keep an eye on Kerwin and this bunch. They mean trouble, and many exciting sci-fi projects are in planning stages.

Avatar (2009)
Cameron’s baby has been touted to have such magical powers that it will literally change the world as we know it. That may have been an overstatement, as the screenplay written by Cameron revealed a more of a Lucas-angle than we ever thought possible. But the technology and the animation are so amazing that the film is worth viewing, even if you hate the smurfs.

Watchmen (2009)
When Zach Snyder announced that he’ll attempt to cramp the entirety of Watchmen into a single feature, we knew that many, many would be leaving the theatres unhappy, no matter how brilliant the film would be. And truly, the film has left a lot of anguish and disappointment amongst fans, but at the same time, Snyder’s filmmaking abilities are undeniable and Watchmen, for what it is, gets to the heart of Moore’s story: if superheroes would exist, ours would be a sad world, full of fascism. Then again, we may be getting there anyways. Watch the Watchmen.

Pandorum (2009)
While reviled for its nudge towards horror, this sci-fi film does offer an intersting storyline, good acting and plenty of boohs. Resemblance to Event Horizon is touted to be accidental, yet it is inescapable to compare the two. Still, it has been a while since we’ve seen such a stylish Event Horizon.

Coraline (2009)
I secretly (alright, maybe it’s not such a big secret) believe that all Neil Gaiman books should be made into films. Coraline is just such an example of story of a girl who walks off into a better, more attentive universe, one in which mom and dad are quite a lot of fun. The downside is they are a little bit different, sporting buttons for eyes. Not all that starts well, ends well, learns little Coraline who must fight the dark forces to retain her lovely peepers.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
Lovely interpretation of what I hope will rise into a franchise of fun, X-Men based films, Wolverine’s story includes, and successfully so, some major X-Men characters that most have been hankering after – Gambit, Deadpool and more. I refuse to wax poetics about Wolverine, considering that it is an exploitation of well true, tried techniques, and that it is based on a rather extensive comic book line. But for what it is, it is good.

Land of the Lost (2009)
What’s a Will Ferrell movie doing on my list? Well, you should watch this then. Not only is this most loosely-based film on popular Jules Verne story, but it contains a great deal to glamor sci-fi of the 60s and 70s. Ferrell plays a professor who…oh, what does it matter…he is a great, fluffy scientician, and they end up fighting off dinosaurs as well as the Sleestack race intent on conquering the universe and time as we know it. Also stars the most excellent Danny McBride. I laughed a lot.

Zombieland (2009)
This film taps into the recent trend of combining comedy with horror, and does very well as such. Gun-toting Woody Harrelson meets a survivalist Jesse Eisenberg, who gives us his list of techniques on how to survive a zombie-ridden world. But Eisenberg is also going through adolescent growing pains, and the list must be forsaken if he is to fight for his new love. It’s about friendship, twinkies, and most importantly, Bill Murray.

MOVIES WE HATED

Star Trek (2009)
I get it. It was a fun romp. An adventure through the stars. Like watching the old faces but new and young. And I still hated it. Why? Because somewhere down the line, I was cheering for Nero. Replacing decades of Star Trek morality tales that made fans look to a better, fairer future, was replaced by something akin to popcorn action in which the good guys are actually not that good. I already live in a world like that thank you very much, and I don’t need you to rub it in.

In other words, go Nero!

The Surrogates (2009)
We have been thirsting for a film that would combine action and science fiction. We watched District 9 and it was good. The Surrogates on the other hand, did very little of that, settling for an execution of a mediocre, Hollywood-polished production telling a tale of a world occupied by avatars, except with very little action, and even less story. We wanted to see Bruce Willis suffer, and instead, we just got to see him walking around. Dull.

Gamer (2009)
This horrible attempt at giving us a world full of people, poor or convicted used as avatars for play of the rich and…rich, is actually one film that left me on the sidelines. The reason why I hated it is not the lack of action, which it has plenty of, or acting, that too is fine, but for this crude depiction of…yes, gamers. It crossed a line by insulting and caricaturing its very own audience. Still, I would catch it on DVD.

Knowing (2009)
While the cinematography of Knowing is surprisingly good, this Nicholas Cage film is one film I loved to hate this year. Heavy Christian overtones are threwn around the film in which a time capsule reveals the date of the end of the world. Cage, a single father, realizes that his son is “chosen.” In other words, we get to see the Rapture with a sci-fi twist.

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2009)
We already got to see this version of Romeo and Juliet as the story of doomed lovers is glimpsed by the viewers in the previous, second film in the Underworld franchise. Why for the life of me this deserved a full feature, I don’t know. The film isn’t any worse or better than its predecessors, and it does make for a light piece of entertainment, but I cringed at the thought that the makers of the popular vampire-action films could not dedicate their time to a new story that would actually capture our attention, rather than just retell what they already successfully did in the previous film.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009)
Instead of cheeky characters, bad lines, and a guy with a funny Cobra head, we got this sleek, fast, heartless monstrosity, aimed only at 13 year-old-boys who have an hour to spare. G.I. Joe was supposed to appeal to our inner nostalgia, and instead it just ended up disappointing multiple generations. Do not, under any circumstance, bother wasting your eyes on this.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
I think that Michael Bay is a very, very ill man, who has some kind of hyper-HDD condition. He lack the ability to focus so very much that he created two full hours of non-stop commercial in which cars transform, die, and rise again. Unless you are on drugs, or watch this in tiny, 5-minute incremental snippets, you will suffer the consequences of the atrocity that is the sequel to Transformers. Watching is like having your brain on fire with stupidity.

Doctor Who: Waiting for Impending Doom Continues

Not sure how many of you have seen the first part of…DOOM!!! Alright. Not exactly doom, but rather the highly anticipated Doctor Who X-mas special, which will result in hallowing in a new era of the Matt Smith Doctor, and kiss the old one, meaning David Tennant, goodbye.

Thus far, the nailbiting adventure has brought back the old and the bad: John Simms is back as The Master, except somehow even more likeable and charming than the last time around. Turns out, The Master was not crazy, he just can’t stop hearing the drums!!!

Grandpa Noble is back as well, we just cannot figure out why, but we like the old man a lot.

And also, Donna Noble is back! Donna turns out to be one of the select few humans who can resist the Master’s mind-manipulation techniques. As a side effect, Noble is also starting to remember the past, which is a bit of a relief considering that she has left to a cruel, average and miserable destiny, leading the life of a minimum wage temp.

At the end though, we are exposed to not only a swarthy, vocal and somewhat spitty Timothy Daulton, but to a potentially returning glory of Gallifrey.

Here’s the teaser for the Saturday’s conclusion of the End of Time!!!

ECO: Polar Ice Sheets More Vulnerable Than Expected


by Irma Arkus

Joined study by a Princeton and Harvard science team, whose findings are published in this week’s Nature, reveals that our polar ice sheets are far more vulnerable to temperature changes than initally estimated.

Even minor warming, study warns, will result in a significant sea level change. Estimated 2 degrees temperature increase could give rise up to 9 meters in the sea levels.

That significant of a water increase would impact all coastal areas, at this point most populated areas on the planet, submerging New Orleans, a big part of Florida, large part of the US East Coast, Bangladesh, and most of the Netherlands, resulting in billions of dollars worth of losses, and displacement of millions of people from their homes.

Though the rise in sea level is officially expected to take centuries researchers point out that the continuous rise in greenhouse gasses may speed up this process.

While the Copenhagen talks disintegrated, many hope that the action on the global climate change be undertaken swiftly, and on a global scale.

Damn Nation Going to Silver Screen


by Irma Arkus

Paramount has hired Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz, better known for their work on Thor, to work on the adaptation of Damn Nation for the silver screen.

Damn Nation is a Dark Horse comic book mini-series, a trilogy written by Andrew Cosby, on the subject of a vampire-creating disease outbreak. A combo between zombies and vampires. US is attacked by creatures of the night to such an extent that most population has been entirely evacuated.

A la Omega Man, but with a lot more fangs. In fact, now that I think about it, Damn Nation may be more Richard Matheson than “I Am Legend.”

Once the infection takes place on a large scale, a group of scientists returns to US, trying to find a cure. And you know what happens then.

Thirst News: True Blood New Casting Updates


by Irma Arkus

Wow. So many people are being added to True Blood cast that I am starting to seriously suspect some major funding provided to production.

The latest scoop is that we are not only to meet Sam’s younger, long-lost brother, but we’ll also get to meet his father, played by Cooper Huckabee, his mother, as portrayed by J. Smith-Cameron.

But don’t think that the story will be only concerned with Sam’s family background as we also get to meet Lafayette’s mother, played by the wonderful Alfre Woodard.

Natasha Alam is added to the cast as a sexy Fangtasia dancer who catches the eye of none other than Eric.

But that is not all, as Sookie is said to also have a romantic interest in the new werewolf in town, played by Joe Manganiello, who as Alcide Herveaux, helps her find Bill after a “kidnapping”???

Evan Rachel Wood is reappearing as queen of all vampires, but leeks indicate that there will be some kind of vampire king in the mix as well.

Tommy Mickens, a character unknown, will apparently also play an important role in the upcoming season. We just don’t know who it will be, or who it will be portrayed by.

Apparently, Alan Ball wants to shake up our feathers quite a bit this season, adding werewolves and romantic interludes a plenty. Who am I to argue?

The only fly in the ointment is the date for the new season premiere: June, 2010. Long way to go, and nothing to watch.

The Weird: Muscle March for Wii

During our last broadcast, Tarek mentioned “Muscle March” for Wii and as promised, we want to share the weird, the amazing, and the funny.

Apparently, the guy in the football suit steals the protein powder from muscle men. As a body builder, you run after him through various “holes in the wall” but as you cross the wall barrier, you must assume the correct muscle pose to gain points. Simple? Not if you don’t know your poses. Also, hillariously, the assumption is that these are muscle MEN (and a polar bear?) poses, rather than just body-building poses, kind of farting in the general direction of all those lovely body-building ladies. Either way, Muscle March is undeniably weird, colourful, and oh so very Japanese.

Here is Muscle March!

Ghibli Studio Announces “Karigurashi no Arrietty,” or The Borrowers


by Irma Arkus

Hiromasa Yonebayashi, Ghibli studio director and animator, has announced that the next production will be “Karigurashi no Arrietty” based on Mary Norton’s book.

According to Kyodo News, the film, translated as “Arrietty Borrows Everything,” is actually based on “The Borrowers,” Norton’s best-selling novel that already received a film treatment in 1997, albeit unsuccessful, about the lives of the little, 10cm large (4″ tall), people who live underneath the floorboards of a lively house.

Now studio Ghibli will apply their own treatment to the book, focusing on the character Arrietti, a girl living underneath a kitchen floor who eventually befriends a little human boy in the house.

Thirsty News: True Blood Casting Update Continues!


by Irma Arkus

James Frain, the silver tongued Cromwell from Tudors is Franklin Mott!

Mott will be a new vampire in town, one that will capture the attention and heart of…wait for it…our lovely Tara.

Frain was born in Leeds, England, and does actually sport an English accent. This not only automatically propels him into sexy-land amongst the southerners, but also acts as a pair of “invisible glasses,” ie. sudden rise in perception of intelligence.

Tara will hopefully take him down a notch or two, but I suspect that what we’ll be really witnessing is some kind of anglo-version of a latin lover.

SGU Returns For Season 2, Changes Announced


we’ve all been soaking up the new show, and unlike other shows this season, SGU has been consistently offering the much needed hard scifi edge to our viewing.

The show has been renewed for the second season, but according to The Hollywood Reporter, many changes are to be expected.

For one, the communications stones have been a fly in the ointment. And their malfunction led the fans to believe that their use will be suspended, or in the least, heavily curtailed.

As far as visiting other planets and meeting alien creatures, the writers promise some of that, but more of a “District 9” version of aliens, rather than the stereotypical “I have gunk on my face” type.

Robert Cooper says that tThe implications of leaving Rush on the planet, the real division that will cause amongst the crew, the judgment of those characters and their actions are going to have a big impact on the show. we have a lot of things planned for the second half of the season, which will be much more serialized.”

As for the girls, apparently a lot of people have been questioning the open sexuality of women (??) to which Cooper elaborates: “I think our female actors are playing strong female characters and they are proud of the characters they’re playing. We didn’t do a good enough job establishing them early on, it took too long for those traits to come to the forefront, and I think people are recognizing that in the later episodes. But that’s the other big hot button — whether sex belongs in sci-fi. It’s a huge deal with our fan base and I think its bizarre to ignore sex as a part of translating the human condition to fiction. If we’re going to try and tell a more realistic character story we need to include those things.”

SGU is returning after holidays, and the first season story lines and principal photography have already been wrapped up. Now, we just have to wait, watch and enjoy. [TheHollywoodReporter

HiSciFi – The Future of Torrents, Santas Parade, Misfits


This week we lament the fall of Mininova.org, bring you some alternatives to the ever popular torrent site, and discuss the issues surrounding copyright.

Also, hold your breath for Santas Parade and the newest UK show, Misfits.
HiSciFi – The Future of Torrents, Santas Parade, Misfits