Planet 51

Planet 51. TriStar Pictures 2009.

Before watching the movie:

I vaguely recall the publicity for this movie at the time, and it didn’t particularly interest me then. The concept of extraterrestrials reacting to an astronaut from Earth as an alien invasion plot turned inside out was moderately intriguing, but it didn’t particularly call out to me at the time. Animation outside of Disney and Pixar (and sometimes them as well) at the time struck a tone that didn’t really connect with me, and still doesn’t. But as that tone was almost obligatory for the market of the day, it was probably exaggerated in the advertisements and this has the potential to be more in line with what does appeal to me.

I didn’t even know that the astronaut is played by Dwayne Johnson. The character design even looks a little bit like a redheaded reimagining of Johnson, how his appearance (and race) would have to change to fit the classic image of space race NASA astronauts. Or I may just be very bad with faces.

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Congo

Congo. Paramount Pictures 1995.

Before watching the movie:

So much as I thought I knew what this was about, it seems I completely misunderstood this movie. I had the idea this was some kind of action drama about conservation, like fighting poachers or something. Maybe a military operation in the jungle.

What this actually seems to have something to do with is a new species of killer gorilla and also a signing gorilla, and the preview I saw looked a lot funnier than I expected. So I’m completely at a loss for what to expect now, besides Tim Curry and Ernie Hudson being in it.

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War of the Satellites

War of the Satellites. Santa Cruz Productions 1958.

Before watching the movie:

I probably know about as much about this movie as Roger Corman did when he decided to make it. Earth is about to start launching satellites and aliens disapprove, and it’s all very “hey, remember Sputnik?”

It sounds more interesting to watch than to write. The effects and action sequences will probably be hilarious but also the best part. It looks like even though the United Nations is standing in for the United States, they still manage to let the United States be the most American part of the Earth.

I like going into movies completely blank on them until I have to write about my nonexistent preconceptions.

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Unidentified Flying Oddball

Unidentified Flying Oddball.
Walt Disney Pictures 1979.

Before watching the movie:

While the title isn’t very indicative of what the movie is about, upon reading that it’s about an astronaut accidentally winding up in the time of King Arthur, I’m incredibly unsurprised that it’s an adaptation of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court but jazzed up with space. And a robot too, for good measure. I hope the “android double” won’t be too ridiculous.

I’m not sure if I’ve actually seen Jim Dale perform in anything, but of course I know him pretty well as the audiobook narrator for the Harry Potter series in the US. I would not have expected him for Mordred though. A few of the other names are vaguely familiar but I can’t tie them to anything specific.

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Doom

Doom. Universal Pictures 2005.

Before watching the movie:

I’m not versed on the lore of Doom, but I think it’s pretty simple. There’s some kind of complex infested by demons, and one guy with a lot of guns takes them out. This movie is about a team fighting aliens. So already not the most faithful.

Later games probably built up the story, but I’m pretty sure it’s always essentially a lone guy fighting demons. But lone guys are hard to write movies for. I’m sure the change to aliens was something like embarrassment, but I completely get making it a team, even if it was probably not the best possible decision.

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Explorers

Explorers. Paramount Pictures 1985.

Before watching the movie:

I know pretty much nothing about this. I’d never heard of it before it languished in one of my streaming queues for years untouched, looking vaguely interesting, but not all that exciting. Looking closer now, I see it’s a story about a couple of boys who build an intergalactic spaceship in their backyard and have a fantastical coming of age adventure and… how did I not encounter this growing up? A kid-oriented sci-fi movie from square in the middle of the 80s, which produced such sci-fi-ish legends most of the best Star Trek movies, two-thirds of the original Star Wars trilogy, Back to the Future, Ghostbusters, and such childhood classics as Stand By Me, Labyrinth (I thought I reviewed that one?), The Never-Ending Story, and of course the most-known member of both categories, E.T.? This seems like it could have had the chance to have been my favorite movie at age nine, maybe as a companion to Flight of the Navigator if I’d known about that before my teens.

I think I’ve experienced movies too late before (see most classic slasher movies, which I was too scared of to watch when they wouldn’t have seemed cheesy to me), so I’m hoping that watching this movie as an entire adult won’t diminish the magic it looks like they’re trying to capture here too much.

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Electric Dreams (1984)

Before watching the movie:

I wanted to find a positive movie about the internet, telepresence, computers and communication bringing us together. Here in the holiday season of 2020, people are either lamenting not being able to join family gatherings or participating in the greatest infection spike of the year by going anyway. I wanted to find a story about people who are separated for Reasons being able to bring light into each others’ lives through the internet, video chat, hologram, or virtual reality communication.

Nobody wants to tell optimistic stories about technology. We get movies like The Net, where hackers can destroy a target’s entire life because the internet enables them, The Matrix, where the Machines put humans into a VR simulation of the 1990s so they wouldn’t notice they’re being enslaved, Lawnmower Man, where a mentally disabled man is plugged into a VR world and decides to become a god, and just so very many movies about killer computer programs being unleashed on the real world.

The most positive candidates I could come up with were Surrogates, a movie about a world where most people plug their brains into lifelike androids and never leave the safety of their homes (which I’ve already seen, and it’s not all that positive), Avatar, where the military plugs a disabled man’s brain into an alien body and he gets to know the aliens’ culture and decides to side with them over the military that wants to destroy their home (again, already seen), and Hyperland, a very odd TV special where virtual Tom Baker teaches Douglas Adams about the lifechanging ways that computers are going to change his life in the coming decades (not a movie, and already seen). I have not seen Ready Player One, but it seems maybe too positive on the idea of escaping into virtual worlds. I get the idea that it’s less about creating virtual communities and more about how it’s cool to base your life on pop culture.

Electric Dreams. Virgin Films 1984.

In fact, the only stories about the internet bringing family together that I can think of are thirty-second short films about things like Spectrum saving Christmas. Because it seems the only people who want to tell inspiring stories about the internet are the companies who are selling you the internet. Everyone else is just much more fascinated with technology gone wrong.

So, I’ve settled on this obscure romantic comedy about a love triangle between a man, a woman, and a computer. Does it probe my thesis about the internet bringing people together? Almost certainly not. But it’s about a computer character and nobody gets murdered (probably), so I’m going to take it.

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The Creation of the Humanoids

The Creation of the Humanoids.
Genie Productions 1962.

Before watching the movie:

The log line that I read said something about robots putting humans in immortal synthetic bodies so they don’t go extinct, which sounds nice of them and I don’t see how this gets spun as a horror movie.

A little more in-depth description refers to humans getting entirely too dependent on the robots and factions trying to keep the robots from becoming “too human” and taking over, which sounds like the kind of allegory that robots as a science fiction concept were invented from.

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Sergeant Deadhead

Sergeant Deadhead. Alta Vista Productions 1965.

Before watching the movie:

From how hard the movie is trying to be sold as a wacky comedy, I would expect that the change that Avalon’s undergoes in space would be really wacky, like he comes back really loopy, or having switched minds with his simian copilot. At the very least, “Deadhead” suggests to me an “idiot comes turns smart” story, which isn’t necessarily funny. But the summary I read says that he returns with a more “aggressive” personality. That doesn’t necessarily sound funny. Maybe it’s funny because he’s aggressive like a chihuahua, overconfident in his abilities.

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Gorgo

Gorgo. King Brothers Productions 1961.

Before watching the movie:

I’m sure nobody wanted audiences to think this was Godzilla with a bit of a King Kong plot. It’s a giant monster movie, but this time in London because it’s a UK production. That’s about all that one can expect, I guess. Specifically, the monster is taken back to London from the place it was found to be shown off, but its mother comes and stomps everything.

Western kaiju movie. I don’t know what more to say. Some of the names are slightly familiar but I couldn’t place them to anything specific.

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