Friday, January 5, 2018

2016 And 2017: Bye Bye Bye Bi-Retrospective

The passion for this blog comes and goes unfortunately. Such are the rhythms in this life for me.

When 2016 ended I had little energy for this thing. I was like Superman with a necklace chock full of kryptonite. I write when I feel it of course. At least I try. I can't say it's getting easier to write. Far too many external concerns have taken me away from this place. The ebb and flow of those issues will have an impact going forward but we will always do our best.

Nevertheless, we'll look back and try to look ahead.

The highlights for me in 2016 were likely writing about anime's Blue Submarine No.6 (1998-2000), Stargate Universe (2009-2011) and SG-1 (1997-2007), the Ascension (2014) mini-series, The Expanse (2015-present), Space:1999 (1975-1977) and anime's Knights Of Sidonia (2014-2015).

We took a peek at Continuum (2012-2015) starring the ever so hot Rachel Nichols (are we still allowed to say that in 2018?). We even wrapped up a look at the original Battlestar Galactica's Saga Of A Star World (1978).

Winter hibernation may have had a roll in enjoying a long siesta well into 2017. For whatever odd reason, that spectacular first season of pop culture sensation LOST (2004-2010) pulled me from my slumber. I know. Crazy, but appropriately so was the show.

We saw a sprinkling of Battle Of The Planets (1978) in both 2016 and 2017. We also carried over Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Universe into 2017 along with Knights Of Sidonia, The Expanse and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008-2009).

Apparently we took 2016 off regarding a look at Kenneth Johnson's The Incredible Hulk (1977-1982) but bounced back to that transformational series again in 2017.

We also jumped back in time for a taste of Land Of The Lost (1974-1976), but then leaped way ahead to the Ronald D. Moore re-imagining of Battlestar Galactica (2003-2009) as well as doomed spin-off Blood And Chrome (2012).

I began a series of posts dedicated to spaceships. That makes sense here at Musings Of A Sci-Fi Fanatic so why not. One of those focused upon was the Daiku Maryu from anime Gaiking (aka Dino Mech Gaiking) (1976-1977) of which I'm currently painting an iteration of here at home when I have a free moment or two and those are scarce I can tell you.

As a general overview regarding these last two years, I found the Netflix film What Happened To Monday? (2017), starring Noomi Rapace by Norwegian director Tommy Wirkola, to be one of my favorite science fiction films. It was one of the most satisfying stories in two years worth of subpar science fiction.

So what lies ahead for Musings Of A Sci-Fi Fanatic? Honestly this writer has no freaking idea.

Of late I've been travelling back in time, of a sort, and enjoying some Criterion edition Blu-Ray films over the last year and exploring some of the classics. As many here know, despite my love of quality science fiction, I'm not a huge fan of mainstream action films or effects heavy superhero films. They just don't interest me including Star Wars. Though, truth be told, I broke down to attend with my son, both of us skeptical mind you, and we found Star Wars: The Last Jedi, to be a marked improvement over The Force Awakens and enjoyed it considerably. He found it to be easily the best of the last three pictures including Rogue One.

But I've been having a love affair with these Criterion releases. To prove that point out some of the films I've enjoyed of late include: Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal (1957), Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs (1971), Andrew Haigh's 45 Years (2015), Guillermo del Toro's The Devil's Backbone (2001), David Fincher's The Game, Ang Lee's The Ice Storm (1997), Wim Wenders' Paris, Texas (1984), Peter Weir's Picnic At Hanging Rock (1975), Roman Polanski's Tess (1979), Terry Gilliam's Time Bandits (1981), Martin Rosen's Watership Down (1978) and Erik Skjoldbjaerg's Insomnia (1997).

The Criterion film thus far that I'd rank as my absolute favorite would be Jan Troell's The Emigrants (1971) and The New Land (1972). These are striking and beautiful films. It's a journey worth your time. The two films clock in at a whopping, epic 393 minutes. It's easy to see the influence of these two films on a beloved series like Little House On The Prairie (1974). There are literally scenes within these two films that struck me as mirrors to scenes regarding the plight of the Ingalls family despite the adaptation of that series based on the books (1935) of Laura Ingalls Wilder. The Emigrants and The New Land are astonishing films with long establishing shots, intimate close-ups, often little dialogue but powerful in terms of emotional resonance. The Emigrants, a foreign film, was nominated for best film in 1972 but was ultimately taken out by The Godfather.

The Criterion films that I found less than mesmerizing, even a bit labored or slow in some fashion for my taste, would be Hal Ashby's Being There (1979), Lars Von Trier's Breaking The Waves (1996), Karel Reisz's The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981), Steve McQueen's Hunger (2008), Byron Haskin's Robinson Crusoe On Mars (1964) and Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne's Two Days, One Night (2014). Many more to go folks.

As for revisiting science fiction here at the site whether it be those vintage era, nostalgic glory days or something more contemporary of high quality this writer hopes to spend some time offering something of quality to you here on your visits.

What I will do and what I'd like to do are clearly two very different, competing objectives.

There will definitely be more of The Expanse. I adore that series and the books from which it is sourced. The latter have delivered exciting, expansive reading. I'm itching for more Battle Of The Planets, Stargate Universe, and Space:1999 to be covered here.

In anime I would love to finish Knights Of Sidonia, Attack On Titan (2013-present) and explore Mazinger Z: The Impact and Space Battleship Yamato 2199 (aka Star Blazers 2199). I also intend to watch the two live action Attack On Titan (2015) films as well as the Japanese release of that new Shin Godzilla film (2017). I am eagerly anticipating the Mazinger Z: Infinity film in 2018.

Currently I've been watching Robotech (or Macross) (1985), a series best enjoyed through a young person's rose-colored glasses, but still ever so influential with significant attention paid to character for an animated series of this vintage.

On the strictly science fiction front as entertainment, this writer, or more fittingly, this viewer is eager to see The Expanse Season Four and Colony Season Three to air in 2018 on television as well as new Netflix series Altered Carbon. In theatres in 2018 the most anticipated science fiction films for me would be Alex Garland's Annihilation, Mortal Engines with minor interests in Pacific Rim: Uprising, The Predator and Alita: Battle Angel.

So we'll certainly see how things go people. But wherever you are out there, all the best to you and much health in 2018. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Alien Christmas

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year all.

Friday, December 15, 2017

LOST S1 E23: Exodus (Part 1)

"The Others are coming."

"This is a woman that blew up her own shelter. Now she's talking about seeing black smoke and hearing whispers. I mean she's not playing with a full deck."

"That doesn't mean that what she's saying isn't true."

Run. Hide. Die. Those are the three options in coping with the Others as we begin our final look at Season One of LOST.

Black smoke rising. "It means their coming."
Dynamite at the Black Rock.
The dark territory.

All kinds of cultivated, dark mysteries as well as epic revelations continue to permeate LOST.

What's not to love when you see a writing team-up of Damon Lindelof (The Leftovers) and Carlton Cuse (Colony, The Strain) at the helm of an epic three-part conclusion to an already epic and classic first season beginning with LOST, Season One, Episode 23, Exodus (Part 1).

Those paying attention to the creative substance behind the scenes know that quality is in store for them and it arrives here with the first of the three-part Exodus.

Frenchwoman Danielle Rousseau walks into the beach encampment and warns the survivors of Oceanic Airlines Flight 815 that the Others are coming. No, not the British, the Others! They took her baby and now they are coming for you. Now what isn't truly titillating about an opener like that one?

Nikki Stafford expressed it perfectly about that opening scene and establishing shot in Finding LOST: The Unofficial Guide (p.145). "Seeing someone emerge from the jungle with a rifle who looks like her brain might not be firing on all cylinders is a little unnerving." This really describes the thrills that accompany that shot that sets up the rest of Exodus.

Highlights: It's hard to select just a single moment in this particular episode. The opening scene featuring Rousseau is clearly outstanding. The raft prep builds a certain excitement as the survivors are prepared to split apart. Still, the intimate moment of the already antagonistic relationship between Jack and Sawyer is the true gem for me as a fan of character drama. This is the essence of great cinema for me.

You'll recall Sawyer withheld information regarding Jack's father in Episode 16, Outlaws, but here Sawyer reaches down deep and despite the button pushing between Jack and Sawyer finds it in his heart to relieve Jack of a tremendous weight and suffering specific to his estranged father/son relationship. Sawyer offers Jack every apologetic detail relayed by his father Christian at a bar that one fateful night all at once lifting a burden of pain off of Jack's shoulders. Sawyer proving their is redemption and their is humanity behind those guarded defenses and those walls. As Sawyer prepares to be one of the men departing on the raft, he offers Jack this kindness as a goodbye. And Jack, ever the dick, cannot even find a way to thank Sawyer for those healing words. Ironic for a doctor. But the beat goes on. As much as the scene is revelatory to Jack it is a character revelation filled with real emotional power for Sawyer. Sawyer's arc continues to grow and propel the character forward.

Fans of LOST like to ask a lot of questions that are not particularly compelling to this writer, even getting a little carried away (see those Nikki Stafford books), but one obvious one that did capture my attention was how exactly that boat made its way inland to Black Rock. How precisely did it get there?

The return of the wonderfully frightening monster sound was of course sci-fi ear candy for this writer. As Rousseau, Jack, Kate, Locke, Hurley and Arzt make their way to the Black Rock and the boat to retrieve dynamite for the hatch. The creature returns for a LOST tease in some terrifically filmed and cinematic rain footage. Love that rain footage! Rousseau submits the smoke creature "is a security system." Do tell! Fantastic! For what? The island of course! This geek loved that concept.

Memory is a funny thing. Things are never exactly as they really were. Giving LOST Season One another look it surprised me how little we saw (or heard) of the monster on the island in this first season. My memory seemed to think it was often, but it certainly was a mystery utilized sparingly. This writer has reached the end of the season and the most the monster was truly offered was essentially in the Pilot.

Rousseau too is not written into the first season as prolifically as I had recollected. Mira Furlan essentially returns for her third time here in Exodus (Part 1). She is easily one of the great recurring characters in science fiction television as Danielle.

One thing memory does serve correctly and, of course, more generally, is just how strong a closer Exodus is for LOST as penned by Lindelof and Cuse.

This is thrilling stuff topped off by the spirited departure of Michael, Walt, Sawyer and Jin on the raft and at once tempered by the final shot of the impending arrival of the Others as symbolized by a plume of ominous black smoke set against trademark Michael Giacchino scoring. It really doesn't get better than this people. Exodus delivers cinematic television excellence.

Flashbacks: Michael, Walt, Jack (with Ana Lucia in her first appearance before becoming a Season Two regular), Sawyer, Kate, Shannon, Sayid, Boone, Sun and Jin.

Writer: Damon Lindelof/ Carlton Cuse.
Director: Jack Bender.


Friday, December 8, 2017

The Rocinante

The Rocinante.
One of the rare ships to undergo a name change in a series. The Rocinante is a commandeered Martian (MCRN) vessel, a single fast-attack corvette, by a crew helmed by Captain James Holden, formerly the XO or executive officer of The Canterbury, during an escape from an unknown enemy combatant in the series The Expanse (2015-present).
The lethal craft's first appearance came in The Expanse, Season One, Episode 4, CQB or Close Quarter Battle.
The Rocinante, named after Don Quixote's horse, was originally called the Tachi until it underwent its official name change in The Expanse, Season One, Episode 6, Rock Bottom here.
The Rocinante would serve as the home of James Holden, Naomi Nagata, Amos Burton and Alex Kamal for the run of The Expanse. And what a machine it is. It is fixed with a PDC (point defense cannon) array. It is one mean, lean, slick, state-of-the-art, bad ass, Martian-designed, piece of machinery.