And You Thought It Was Safe(?)


Prometheus (2012)

Logan’s Run (1976)
"You *will* like this film, damnit!"

“You *will* like this film, damnit!”

The mid-70s were a stranger time for SF films than most of us realize. Nowadays we see that pre-Star Wars decade through a screen called 2001: A Space Odyssey, forgetting how much that film (like Star Wars after it) polarized opinion, only assumed the status of Unassailable Classic after the stoned teenagers who loved it became filmmakers themselves. Before that, the Big Name in successful sci-fi films from 1968 was Planet of the Apes. Which deserves to be examined in its own time. So let’s just skim over its superficial attributes real fast.

Apes is a big budget ($5 million went a lot further back then) Major Studio SF picture based on a novel few bothered to read with a well-known piece of beefcake in the lead role and supporting actors doing much better jobs. So I’m not surprised William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson’s novel got its own time in the limelight. Logan’s Run-the-book hit shelves in 1967…the same year our beefcake, Michael York, hit screens in The Taming of the Shrew. By the time he won the lead in this big budget ($9 million) Major Studio SF picture, he’d become internationally famous as D’Artagnan in both of Richard Lester’s Musketeers movies. As to the supporting cast…yep. We’re in the pipe, five by five. Continue reading



Westworld (1973)
"You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe...whatever you want to believe...you take the red pill, you stay in wonderland...and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes..."

“You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe…whatever you want to believe…you take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland…and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes…”

If you were alive on planet Earth in 1993, you probably found yourself face-to-face with the work of Michael Crichton. He was fifty-one by that point, and a multiple New York Times bestselling author with a shelf’s worth of fiction and non-fiction to his name. Most didn’t bother looking at them, but some of us did, and through them we learned Jurassic Park was the end point of a thought-line that runs through Crichton’s whole career, possibly his entire life.

To tease that thought-line out, it’s best we step back into the shoes of a thirty-one-year-old Crichton as he attempted to become a full-time filmmaker. It’s 1973, and Crichton’s last two books are doing well, though nowhere near as well as his first real successThe Andromeda Strain. Published in ’69 and made into a movie two years later, Strain contains the seeds of Crichton’s literary obsessions…though neither book nor film are as thrilling as they think are.

Which is probably why his next book, Binary, reads more like an episode of CSI than as an actual Michael Crichton novel (and since it was the last one he published under a pseudonym, that kinda fits). Police procedurals always sell, especially when they can wow the audience with all that fun, new forensic technology modern cops (supposedly) get to play with these days. So Binary became a made-for-TV movie, re-titled Pursuit, with Circhton himself directing. Continue reading



The Year of the Sex Olympics (1968)

[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/AYLs2BkA?p=1 width=”640″ height=”510″]



eXistenZ (1999)
Intimacy, Cronenberg style.

Know what could’ve made this creepier? A funk-a-delic porn soundtrack. Ah yeah! Cronenberg style, baby.

…yes, but, after M. Butterfly, and especially after Crash, writer/director David Cronenberg suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous critical fortune and the inevitable backlash from snobs. Either horror snobs scoffed at his Chinese Opera movie, or the art house snobs called his sex-and-car-crashes movie “pretentious.” And when the San Francisco Chronicle calls you “pretentious” you’ve either made it to the Absolute Height of North American cinema…or you’re in serious trouble.

Alright. Not too serious, but still…I can see why, after all that, he went back to the well for a refresher. Back to the ol’ Body Horror stomping grounds that were so good to him in the 70s and 80s. Back to the concerns and questions that haunt his entire career. Questions of identity when your biology runs riot. Questions of ethics and morality in a world of simulacra. Questions of humanity in an age that does its best to reduce, marginalize, and (should it fail in the first two) eliminate human beings.

When this film premiered in April, 1999, my only question was, “Has the well finally run dry?” Continue reading



Outland (1981)
At least there's no gigantic clock tower.

At least there’s no gigantic clock tower on Io. That would’ve been too obvious.

is another weird one, neither fish nor fowl. It’s another transitional fossil, from a time when Star Wars had not yet begun to ruin everything. Not that it didn’t do some good. Before the first Death Star’s destruction (spoiler alert), sci-fi films were exclusively B-listers, unfairly ghettoized, not for the content of their character, but for their budget’s relative cheapness.

Then came Spielberg. And then came George Lucus. And then came a whole horde of big budget sci-fi pictures, most long-since forgotten. So when, after taking a figurative dump on The Rock and a literal one on League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, someone requested I review a “good” Sean Connery film, I immediately thought of this one.

No, wait; that’s a lie. At first I thought of Dragonheart. But I’ve already written an intro for Outland and if I start flip-flopping now, terrorists will nerve gas San Francisco. I should know. I’m the guy with the nerve gas. Continue reading



The Island (2005)
Parts: The Lens Flare Horror

Parts: The Lens Flare Horror

I expected to hate The Island. But 2005 was a real bi-polar year. We all learned what it meant to miss New Orleans, but look on the bright side: Batman came back to unexpectedly-viable life, I was enjoying all the benefits of dating a Reed College student, and Michael Bay directed a film that doesn’t totally suck. It’s not good…but it fits in with the general tone of this site a whole hell of a lot better than, say, The Rock. I’m a Sci-Fi geek through and through. Gave up making apologies for that sometime in the early-90s, around the time Star Trek started rocking my world.

As such, I could care less about frat boy circle jerks, like the Bad Boys duology or Pearl Harbor. This film faced longer odds then a sailor on the U.S.S. Arizona on December 7, 1941. And yet it…kinda…sorta…beat them. Continue reading