Tag Archive | sci-fi

The excellent Sound of My Voice further heralds Marling’s talents

In 2011, Brit Marling took sci-fi and indie-film fans by surprise with Another Earth, a contemplative character piece written and performed by the young Chicagoan.  Alongside that debut, Marling was also hard at work on Sound of My Voice, which soon will see its UK release.  Again, Marling pulls double duty in this sci-fi tinged thriller, which sees her take the role of a woman allegedly from the future.  The result is the knock-out blow of Marling’s one-two punch debut.  Suspenseful and gripping, Sound of My Voice is exciting both as a work unto itself and as a glimpse of the talent and potential within Marling.

Suspense is built from the get-go, as a couple engage in a mysterious preparation before finally being taken to the home of Maggie (Marling), where odd cult-like rituals ensue.  The couple in question are Peter (Christopher Denham), a substitute teacher, and Lorna (Nicole Vicius), a reformed socialite, who secretly aim to put together a documentary about the group they perceive to be a cult and whose lives may be at risk from Maggie’s manipulation.   Seeds of doubt are planted at every available turn and not only about whether Maggie is what she says.  There’s a certain K-Pax-ian influence at play here, but as each day and interaction pass, Sound of My Voice becomes more and more enthralling.  With no idea of what lies ahead or how one of Peter’s young students factors into things, Marling’s story is truly a joy to experience.  The finale may leave the audience asking questions, but it’s the right kind of questions, those intentionally left open to interpretation, that will be on their lips.  Sound of My Voice provides the type of clever psychology that is sadly lacking in most modern Hollywood sci-fi flicks.
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Prometheus makes a crash landing

In anticipation of the release of Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, there has been much discussion over what this story will reveal.  It’s well known that The Alien director was interested in telling the origin story of the xenomorphs, but he has been dismissive towards persistent rumours that his latest is a direct prequel to his 1979 classic; famously stating that the films share strands of the same DNA.  While it would be expected that Scott was lying through his teeth, the surprise is that his statement is more of a half-truth, which may have been the worst option.

Set in 2093, a full 29 years before of Scott’s franchise leader, Prometheus treads very familiar territory.  In these pre-Ripley days, we get Dr Elizabeth Shaw, whose tenacity is amply supplied by Noomi Rapace.  On the slightly less human side, Michael Fassbender fills David’s synthetic shoes (although he probably should have been named Aaron).  Visually, Prometheus paints a spectacular vision of life in space, but as the Prometheus ship itself is introduced with its name, crew number and “destination: unknown” flashing across the screen, it feels like Scott is coming home and taking the audience with him.  Throughout the opening act, as the Weyland funded and led expedition to a far off planet gathers steam, a slow-burn, yet exciting pace builds.  As the team explores the dark, mysterious caverns it’s easy to feel there beside them, despite knowing more about what may lie in wait for the crew than they do.  When an instantly recognisable body is discovered, it’s almost enough to make one cheer.  Heartbreakingly though, Damon Lindelof’s script gets it almost entirely wrong beyond that point.
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John Carter (possibly of Mars, maybe) makes a clumsy landing

In John Carter, Disney loosely brings Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “A Princess of Mars” to the big screen, with Taylor Kitsch as the titular lead.  By boasting a budget of a quarter of a billion dollars while employing a cast low on star power, the emphasis is clearly meant to be on the spectacle.  In that regard, John Carter doesn’t disappoint, but there’s little else that makes the experience noteworthy, as the script lays out a lengthy journey of peaks and valleys before reaching a conclusion that is both clever and daft at the same time.

John Carter goes to Mars on 9 March

An opening prologue depicts the turning point in the civil war on Mars as the Therns, holy messengers acting essentially as puppet masters and led by Mark Strong’s shape-shifting Matai Shang, select their chosen one in order to sway the war’s outcome.  A brief title sequence later and John Carter himself enters the film, setting up an important premise and a tip of the hat to Burroughs.  The character of this former Virginian cavalry captain is quickly established through his tough, unrelenting approach.  By Disney standards, Carter is also quite cynical and refuses to fight on behalf of any other man.  Happening upon a golden cave, Carter is attacked by a protective Thern whose medallion inadvertently transports Carter to Mars, or Barsoom, as it is called here.  Upon arrival, Carter quickly finds that his physical strength has greatly increased as he can jump vast distances and strike with extreme force.  Once discovered by the green, four-armed Tharks, Carter is taken captive as a rare creature.  This despite the Tharks having full knowledge of the red men of Mars, who look identical to this “animal” save for Carter not having henna designs all over his body.  This raises a major issue with John Carter.  This is science fiction, where “fiction” should be in all capitals.  It requires a massive suspension of disbelief to get on board with the premise and the plot.  Never mind that Barsoom looks suspiciously like the canyons and deserts of Utah and not particularly other-worldly.  Never mind that atmosphere must be exactly like earth’s, while still having some magical impact on Carter’s abilities.  And that paper thin excuse for how Carter can suddenly communicate with the Tharks?  Better just forget about that.
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Review: Another Earth

Brit Marling takes centre stage in Another Earth where, not only does she star as the film’s lead, Rhoda, but also shares screenplay credit with director Mike Cahill.  While earth 2 remains a backdrop, both literally and figuratively, throughout the film, the drama at the heart of Another Earth is a compelling tale of loss and regret.

Another Earth arrives 9 December in the UK

Another Earth’s opening minutes are jarring as they set the tone for the contemplative film that follows. On the night when a new, life-sustaining planet is suddenly discovered, high schooler Rhoda Williams is involved in a horrific head-on collision. Following four years in a juvenile detention centre for vehicular manslaughter, Rhoda, now 21, is released into a world struggling to make sense of its new neighbouring planet, which appears identical to earth itself. As Rhoda drifts along, with years of opportunities missed and guilt weighing her down, she takes a menial job as a school’s cleaner and ponders a competition where the winner will receive a free trip to earth 2.  Upon discovering that one of the victims from the car-wreck, composer John Burroughs (William Mapother), has survived Rhoda sets out to apologise for her terrible mistake.  What unfolds is a heart-wrenching depiction of the debilitating effects such a traumatic incident can have on its victims.
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