science fiction

Fake Feminist Sci-Fi Films of the Fifties

Before the recent advances in Hollywood due to the #metoo and #timesup movements, there were science fiction films that showed strong women.  Characters like Ripley in Alien and Sarah Conner from the Terminator franchise showed women that were smart and capable without turning into damsels in distress at the sign of the first man who could help them.  While women in sci-fi films of the past were often just eye candy, some films are so misogynistic that it is either painful or hilarious to watch them (often both).

In the 1950s, as the feminist movement gained traction, some films seemed intent in showing strong women that were only waiting for a man to come along and melt their cold hearts.  Others showed that when women had power they became either crazy, violent, or both.

These movies all felt feminist to viewers when they were released but to the modern eye they really support the patriarchy of the times.  Here are the most egregious examples.

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French science-fiction hasn’t had too much luck with international cinematic releases: from the gloriously jumbled mess that was the Fifth Element, all the way to the recent toss-up that was Immortelle, French science fiction comic books hasn’t managed to stick with audiences. It could be the large concentration of nudity, the weird approach they take toward implementing religion in their stories or just their shaky morality play, but this latest adaptation might actually stand a chance…

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Best Obscure Graphic Novels That Everyone Should Read

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“Why don’t more people know about [INSERT GRAPHIC NOVEL TITLE HERE]? [INSERT GRAPHIC NOVEL TITLE HERE] is the best thing ever!

~Every cheated comic book nerd ever.

With almost a century’s worth of tradition, comic books have absolute metric craptons of excellent, well thought-out content, even after you have subtracted the 90% of crap that infests every medium, as predicted by Sturgeon’s Law. And while this 10% might sound pretty damn promising, a lot of it just has simply been lost to time and lack of reprints, mostly due to their lackluster sales.

Which makes sense, from a market perspective: how many newfangled nerds know about the work of Rick Veitch? Who among the steampunk nerds have even heard of the unbridled lunacy that’s in the work of Bryan Talbot? Heck, how many otaku do you know that know the work of Boichi or even Kago Shintarou? Even if you factor in those creators’ excellence, their work often slips through the cracks, by virtue of simple logistics. (more…)

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Hidden treasures are always a given in the sci-fi genre. From the post-apocalyptic deconstructive metaphor of Hell Comes To Frogtown to Mark Hammil’s lost road-trip classic Slipstream and all the way up to 2009’s MOON, there are metric tons of films that are labors of love that never quite make it into becoming proper mainstream hits.

Air and Terminus are two such films, released in 2015, both deeply rooted in old-school science fiction tradition, each sporting a different flavor in its iteration of the genre. Where Air is loose hard science fiction with a bittersweet lean, Terminus is a Cold-war style story that, while lacking the higher-budget finish of the other movie, still manages to give a great, contemporary story.

Neither movie is perfect: far from it, both suffer from a number of flaws, which we will address. But they are damn good examples of science fiction and they deserve a better chance than what they got. So strap on in and start playing that special end-of the-universe playlist. Stuff’s about to get dreary…

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Westworld is one of those science fiction TV shows that have become development hell teases, almost on par with Preacher and Arrested Development. Over the years, the series has gone through considerable rewrites, production issues and delays starting all the way back in 2013, when HBO first ordered a pilot episode and the production of a complete season in 2014, only for it to be halted halfway through 2015, just when it was about to hit the small screen. HBO went ahead to attempt to make amends for the delay, promising that the series would finally air in early 2016.

But now, with 2016 well underway, it looks like we might have to curb our expectations…

Again.
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Bird Bird can do wrong. The Iron Giant is a masterpiece, The Incredibles is perhaps the best comic book movie ever made, Ratatouille is endlessly charming, and his first live-action movie, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, is the best of the series and the one that best captures the aesthetic of the original TV show. So when Bird shirked directorial responsibilities on Star Wars: The Force Awakens and dared to make something original, a giant mystery box called Tomorrowland, it was a bold choice, a daring choice. But a batting streak like Bird’s was bound to run dry sometime, and while Tomorrowland isn’t a mess on par with, say, Chappie, it does show tremendous strain in its execution. (more…)

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I saw The Fifth Element during it’s opening week in the theater, and unlike the relatively small crowd who were also there in the cinema to watch, I got it! I read critical reaction and saw the box office returns. Words like “train wreck,” “flawed,” “overblown” and “misfire” were thrown around, but none of that sounded like the film I had watched and enjoyed from beginning to end. Was I crazy? It turns out I wasn’t so much because almost 20 years The Fifth Element – like The Wizard of Oz, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and Blade Runner – it’s got more fans than detractors now. Time, as John Lennon once said wounds all heels. Does the same fate await Jupiter Ascending? I don’t want to speak too soon, but I would argue that it’s not as bad as everyone is letting on. (more…)

 

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Prometheus was an adequate enough introduction back into Ridley Scott‘s Alien universe. A lot of questions were left unanswered, but that is part of the beauty of the Science Fiction genre; a sense of mystery, room to theorize, to talk with others and debate and learn in a reciprocal manner. It’s not any secret that Ridley Scott is a Sci-Fi auteur; master of his craft. He creates movies that have individuals’ thinking for themselves and developing their own interpretations (Blade Runner and whether Deckard is a replicant or not anyone?).  With Prometheus, it seems one of the main problems that irked some of the fans was the fact the movie wasn’t a direct prequel to the Alien series as was originally planned. Some were annoyed that Damon Lindelof had been called in to tinker with the script (which makes one wonder how Lindelof haters feel about Green Lantern‘ scriber Michael Green penning the sequel) . The fact it is set in the same universe should have been enough to suffice no? Apparently not! Apparently people wanted more of the same. Well, word on the street is that Ridley Scott has been dishing some dirt on his plans for the highly anticipated sequel. (more…)

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There was a time when Doug Liman was an interesting filmmaker, but it seems so long ago that I can barely remember why I enjoyed his early movies. Swingers and Go belonged to the stable of ’90s indie “dramedies” that the decade became so synonymous for. Then came The Bourne Identity, which was slightly better than competent and helped launch the Matt Damon/Robert Ludlum franchise, only to be overshadowed by Paul Greengrass’ superior entires. After that, Liman seemed to run out of gas, churning out vanilla PG-13 action fare like Mr. & Mrs. Smith and Jumper, both of which I know I saw yet couldn’t describe a scene from either to you in order to save my life (there was an elevator in Mr. &. Mrs. Smith? Maybe some cake?). The rest of the aughts found Liman Executive Producing TV shows like Suits and I Just Want My Pants Back, the latter of which sounds like a serialized Nick Nolte biopic.

Now comes Railhead, an adaptation of a yet-to-be-released children’s novel for Warner Bros. which, according to The Hollywood Reporter, is set in “a futuristic world where trains run through space via portals.” I guess that sounds like a Doug Liman joint. Then again, a live-action Care Bears adaptation sounds like a Doug Liman joint at this point.

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It’s Worth the Trip to ‘Defiance’

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With the new series Defiance Sy-Fy tries something unexpected: original science fiction! Kidding aside, Defiance is a promising series that genre fans are going to find a lot in common with. It combines the desperate group of survivors motif of Lost and Battlestar Galactica with the strange new worlds right her on Earth concept of Primeval and Terra Nova, and the high-minded, cross-cultural moralizing of the grandfather of all TV sci-fi, Star Trek.

That’s highly ambitious, right? Fortunately, Defiance might have the pedigree to pull it off. Developed by Rockne S. O’Bannon (Farscape, Cult) and executive produced by O’Bannon, Kevin Murphy (Caprica, Reaper) and Michael Taylor (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Battlestar Galactica), Defiance introduces us to a brave new world called Earth. Forty-three years from now, the planet’s been altered by the arrival of seven alien species collectively called the Votans. Terraforming accidents have introduced new plants and animals into the ecosystem, entire landscapes have been altered with plains being turned into mountain ranges, flowing rivers completely drying up, and entire cities buried under the new Earth.

The series’ namesake is the frontier town of Defiance, named after a group of human and alien heroes of the Pale Wars called the Defiant Ones. Humans and aliens live together side-by-side in Defiance, building a community and maintaining some semblance of human civilization. Into town arrive former Marine Joshua Nolan (Grant Bowler), and his adopted daughter Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas), a member of the feral Votan race called the Irathient. The town is governed in a fair-handed but idealistic manner by Amanda Rosewater (Julie Benz) though her job is occasionally made politically difficult by Defiance’s two biggest patrons, human mine owner McCawley (Graham Greene) and Datak Tarr (Tony Curran), a member of the noble Castithan race who’s ostensibly the town’s mob boss although he struggles too to be seen as a legitimate businessman.

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The pilot episode chronicles Nolan and Irisa’s arrival in Defiance after loosing their ride and their supplies to a group of Irathient bandits called the Spirit Riders. Nolan immediately ingratiates himself with the matron of the local bordello, and gets on the bad side of Datak Tarr. But mysterious forces conspire to destroy Defiance for some mysterious MacGuffin that will alter the destiny of all races – human and alien – on the new Earth. Defiance fans, say ‘hello’ to your mythology. What is this MacGuffin? Why are they after it? How will it change the world? Let’s just say that Fionnula Flanagan is perfectly cast as Defiance’s former mayor Nicky Riordon.

The follow on two episodes settle pretty quickly into the format of a new danger arising weekly in Defiance as its inhabitants struggle with their own personal angels and demons. In “Down In The Ground Where The Dead Men Go” we see how Castithans treat deserters, torturing them to death on a rack like device, and how that affects more moralized members of Defiance, while Nolan and McCawley follow a traitor into the ruins of old St Louis to stop another plot to destroy the town. Then in “The Devil In The Dark,” Irisa discovers some insight into an interesting Irathient ability as some unknown assailant targets certain townspeople with creatures known as “Hell Bugs.”

In these first few episodes of Defiance I see a lot in common with a personal favourite of mine, Babylon 5. Like the beginnings of that show I see it struggles balancing its cultural examinations and its determination to deliver new and interesting stories in a well-worn genre. Fortunately, I think there’s a lot to work with. Like B5, the aliens are instantly and distinctively drawn suggesting a unique and intrinsic culture for each one. Some are better drawn than others in these first three episodes, the bird-like Liberata are barely seen, and the orangutan-resembling Sensoth only stand out as background players, but I expect they’ll each get their day before season’s end.

The actors tasked with bringing this series to life ares certainly a compelling bunch. Julie Benz is a highlight giving Mayor Rosewater a hopey-changey disposition while confidentially playing the realization of the somewhat daunting office she carries. Greene is always solid, even if he has to play straight one of the most contrived storylines as the scorned father who learns that his daughter Christie (Nicole Muñoz) is engaged to Datak’s son Alak (Jesse Rath). Tony Curran is good playing the shifty nature of Datak, a masochist in some ways, but at heart essentially a street kid trying to prove he’s worth a damn, but if there’s a Tarr to watch it is Jaime Murray’s Lady Macbeth interpretation of Datak’s wife, Stahma. My favourite character though has to be the prickly Dr. Yewll (Trenna Keating), a member of the bio-mechanical Indogene race whose delivery is as tart as her medicals skills proficient.

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As for the series’ leading man, Grant Bowler, he gets to show off a lot of swagger, and sometimes some deep emotion. Initially Nolan is played as a Han Solo-type, a look-out-for-number-one lone wolf trying to make his way to the beautiful (and somewhat fabled) beaches of Antarctica. He’s also a capable man with a gun, and a jack of all trades so far as the arts of tracking, scavenging and scheming, but he’s initially hesitant to get involved in the affairs of Defiance. We learn that Nolan actually grew-up in St. Louis pre-invasion, but so far that hasn’t been played up much, not that we really need to know more on that end. I think both Bowler and the writers paint enough complexity on Nolan to avoid trying to shoe-horn him into the show’s mythology, and Browler easily proves that he can handle both the action requirements and the emotional beats with equal skill.

Of course, one of the things that will set Defiance apart is the concurrent game that’s part-in-parcel with the show and its canon. I’m not sure how that aspect of the franchise will be handled, but I will say that the climactic battle of the pilot felt a bit too much like a video game for my taste given the faceless, personality-less, and rather omnipresent threat of the apparently terrifying Volge. Like a good video game villain, there are a lot of them, they’re supposedly scary, they can climb walls, and they have a bad ass reputation. The big fight in the pilot’s third act was, I think, the weakest part of the series I’ve seen so far, so hopefully that’s not indicative of the game, or how the series will handle action from now on.

But overall I found Defiance, as a show, engaging enough to return for episode four. Like many sci-fi (and Sy-Fy) predecessors it shows great promise. I’m very interested to learn more about the world and the aliens, but more importantly, I’m very interested to see where these characters are going, and how they’ll interact on a weekly basis. I’m also interested, to a lesser degree, in seeing what the big mystery is. It will undoubtedly be disappointing, but Defiance has enough going on that I (probably) won’t mind.

Defiance airs Mondays at 9 pm on Sy-Fy in the Unites States and at 10 pm on Showcase in Canada.