Tag Archives: science fiction

Shoot Me Twice: The Fly

by Dan Fields

Shoot Me Twice by Fields Point Review turns a compound eye on the 1958 and 1986 versions of the Fly

Marrying human flesh with the cold spindly tissues of an insect, The Fly weaves its eerie charm by positing our ability, through our own technological brilliance, to forfeit our very humanity. The concept works astonishingly well as both a high-camp creature feature of the late 1950s and a timely confrontation of addiction mentality in the anxious 1980s. In each film, science fiction turns to horror when a far-seeing scientist leaves a tiny, negligible possibility out of the equation. The slightest detail out of place, no larger or more remote than a single humming pest, gains the monstrous power to change human destiny.

The Fly (1958)
directed by Kurt Neumann

All eyes are on Hélène (Patricia Owens)
© 1958 20th Century Fox

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Shoot Me Twice: Robocop

by Dan Fields

Shoot Me Twice by Fields Point Review dissects the 1987 and 2014 versions of Robocop

Part man. Part machine. All cop. There’s your tagline, and what better introduction to the original and remade versions of the iconic RoboCop?

RoboCop (1987)
directed by Paul Verhoeven

Peter Weller as Paul Verhoeven's RoboCop brings law to a city in chaos
Alex Murphy, a.k.a. RoboCop (Peter Weller) saves Detroit with tough, blood-soaked love.
© 1987 Orion Pictures

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Shoot Me Twice: Invasion Of The Body Snatchers

by Dan Fields

Shoot Me Twice by Fields Point Review compares the 1956 and 1978 versions of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers

Jack Finney’s novel The Body Snatchers has seen four high-profile adaptations to film, but only the first two share the essential link between film and remake. Abel Ferrara’s noteworthy Body Snatchers, and Oliver Hirschbiegel’s less noteworthy The Invasion, riff on different themes than the two versions fully titled Invasion Of The Body Snatchers. Though their styles diverge sharply with the decades in which each was produced, these movies mine contemporary social anxiety to the same terrifying effect, thanks to skillful directing and acting in both cases. Given the number of disappointing remakes to be covered in the coming weeks, it seems like a good idea to begin the series with an unqualified success.

Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1956)
directed by Don Siegel

Kevin McCarthy battles the Invasion Of The Body Snatchers in Don Siegel's original film
Dr. Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) pitches in.
© 1956 Allied Artists Pictures Corporation

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Movie Revew: Gravity

by Dan Fields

Sandra Bullock battles to survive outer space in Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity
© 2013 Esperanto Films / Warner Bros.

I Miss The Earth So Much

Alfonso Cuarón has an impressive record as a director, his body of work including the international hit Y Tu Mamá También, the third Harry Potter movie, and the wrenching end-of-days drama Children Of Men. His return to the helm is no less a triumph, by most measures outstripping even Children Of Men in ambition and execution.

We join Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) orbiting Earth on a spacewalk, tinkering with a scientific MacGuffin of her own design on the Hubble Space Telescope. This is her first space mission, while her laid-back mission commander, Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), is on his last. Mid-mission, a high-speed hail of debris from a demolished satellite tears through their shuttle, disabling it and taking out the rest of the crew. Knocked free of the wreckage, Stone spirals out into space without a tether. Gasping away at the last of her oxygen in panic, she soon comes to realize that her chances of getting back to Earth alive are a series of swiftly closing windows that will require quick thinking and the utmost determination. Struggling to contact Kowalski and form a plan that will save them, she has a unique chance to confront and test the distinction between a mere survival instinct and an active will to live.

Sandra Bullock has a lot to carry in her role, and a dire scenario with a ticking clock provides a less than ideal context for character exposition. However, the script utilizes quiet moments to round out the character as fully as could be reasonably expected. Who Stone is, really and precisely, must remain vague in the absence of backstory, but flashbacks or similar techniques would have undermined this film, making it more ordinary and less special. The audience gets plenty of material with which to judge Stone’s character in the present. Introverted, high-strung, cowed by life’s hardships, she seems to lack the grit and determination of a true survivor type. In any case, she clearly never imagined having to fight for her life, which in the service of a satisfying character arc she now must do. At a certain point, her simple refusal to resign herself to death becomes more important than whether or not she will actually survive. Finding the strength of will to carry on, in defiance of increasingly hopeless odds, is the true hero’s journey.

Clooney has the less demanding of the two roles, but he too pulls his weight (so to speak). At first a light-hearted foil to Stone’s (can’t say gravity) anxious solemnity, he becomes a valuable source of wisdom and inspiration. An adventurer near the end of his long career, Kowalski is free of fear, and so free of the recklessness that desperation invites during a crisis. His plan to save Stone rests in his conviction that she must learn to save herself.

From a simple premise with only two fully formed characters, Cuarón coaxes not just entertainment but majesty. Staged in some of the best 3D in the history of the technique, Gravity uses amazing tricks of distance and scale to express the sheer vastness of outer space. Even with an enormous planet looming in view, the remoteness of the world it represents is palpable throughout the film. The photography, sound design and visually effects fit together beautifully, giving the very realistic impression of a film shot in outer space. Except maybe to those who know enough to nitpick small physical or astronomical details, the hostile conditions of Gravity are disturbingly plausible. With the possible exceptions of Alien and 2001: A Space Odyssey, Cuarón’s film feels more harrowing and less safe, simply because of its environment, than any other feature film set outside the atmosphere of a planet.

Gravity is an excellent film, but even that comes at a price. A feature this strong only calls attention to what a slow year it has been for good movies, and to the relative scarcity of pure, heart-gripping, praiseworthy cinema currently in circulation.

Movie Review: Europa Report

by Dan Fields

Sebastián Cordero directs an international cast in the sci-fi drama Europa Report
© 2013 Magnet Releasing

Half A Billion Miles From Benson, Arizona

Some day in the future, scientists will conclude that the signs of aquatic life recorded on Jupiter’s sixth moon, Europa, are sufficiently promising to risk a manned mission of something like two years (one way) to take environmental samples. This is the plain and simple premise of Sebastián Cordero’s Europa Report.

Europa One is a high-tech exploration vessel funded by nebulous sponsors presumably more benign than the Weyland-Yutani Corporation of the Alien franchise. Framed as a declassified account of the mission, the movie begins with strong hints that while the astronauts outdid themselves in a high-risk situation, things did not turn out as planned. In fragments of onboard footage and explanatory asides from mission control experts, a harrowing account of tribulation among the stars unfolds. Continue reading

Movie Review: Upstream Color

by Dan Fields

Upstream Color (2013, directed by Shane Carruth) International Poster
© 2013 ERBP

Suffer The Little Piglets

Following the cult success of his time-travel drama Primer, writer/director/star Shane Carruth now reaches further into the cosmos for Upstream Color, a speculative tale that invites interpretation but resists explanation. Dealing in altered perception and mysterious invasions, the movie weaves strange patterns in time and space, leaving its own sense of reality open to doubt. It has the surreal quality of a bad dream, but its examinations of control, manipulation, fear, grief and love ring true. A fanciful premise does not prevent the film from resonating powerfully in a real-world context.

This is the sort of film of which any discussion is a tricky prospect, as the advancement of the story depends on details that a critic should probably not reveal. Upstream Color is the story of a bizarre life cycle, which inhabits and thereby connects a series of everyday organisms with no apparent relation. But is it truly a parasite that forges links between its various hosts, or does Carruth mean to reveal a network of abstract, mostly invisible connections that already exist at nature’s fundamental level? In either case, the unexpected interplay between minds and souls throughout Upstream Color is both moving and terrifying. Scientific and metaphysical ambiguity form a large part of this movie’s appeal, so those in search of a concrete solution are sure to be frustrated. For those who like to question, interpret, and puzzle over the meaning of a story, this is a film of rare and unique beauty. Continue reading