Tag Archives: sci-fi

More made-for-TV shark movies, please

Sharknado was so three weeks ago, I know, but that’s exactly when I usually like to jump on a bandwagon, after mostly everybody’s already gotten off. Can you imagine what it would have been like for me to make some Sharknado comments at the same time as everybody else in the country? They would have been drowned in an ocean of exactly the same stuff. But I find that if you wait a few weeks, it’ll be over, most people have already stopped talking about it, and now I’m free to join in, uninterrupted.


Besides, I’m not here to talk about Sharknado anyway, I’m here to talk about other ideas for made-for-TV sci-fi movies. Like Sharkcountant. What would you do if you brought your taxes in to get filed, only to find a shark sitting behind the desk? Would you freak out? I mean, I’d be scared initially, like, if it’s a shark, they’re pretty nasty looking, all of those rows of teeth. But the movie would have to make at least a little sense, and so yeah, he’d still look like a shark, but he’d probably be able to talk. I don’t know how difficult it would be for a shark to pass his CPA exam, but I’m guessing he’d have to behave at least well enough to get through business school, to get hired, eventually starting his own practice.

And so yeah, maybe Sharkcountant might be a little boring. It would make for a great ten-minute intro. Like you’d see the shark, but he’d be wearing a tie, maybe some glasses, and as the main character tries to run away, the shark would have to beg him to stop screaming, “Please! I know how this looks, but I assure you I’m an accountant. I won’t eat you, I promise!”

Obviously, Sharkitect, that’s a title just begging for a low-budget production. But that’s got to be a hard directorial choice to make, do you go for an anthropomorphic shark going through the above scenario, going to architecture school, finding an apprenticeship willing to at least entertain the idea of employing a shark? Or do you take it in a different direction? Maybe this movie is underwater, deep below the sea there’s maybe like a shark civilization, and they live in buildings designed for sharks, by sharks. And it could just be the tale of a sharkitect with a vision, a dream to bust into the rarified world of high-end sharkitecture.

I guess … that’s it? When I started writing this, Sharkcountant popped into my head almost immediately. I had this false sense that this whole thing was going to write itself. It’d be easy, I’d just make shark jokes and combine shark with other non-shark words and, you know, basically what they do whenever they make one of those shark movies for TV. But I wrote out the Sharkcountant paragraph, and then I was like, huh, there’s still a lot of empty page that I’m going to have to cover.

And then I sat here for like twenty minutes, eventually getting to the point where I was just looking for any word that could handle being merged with the word shark. Sharkitect. Done. But again, I really didn’t have anything to say besides the whole underwater thing, and let’s be honest, that was kind of boring, right?

Another twenty minutes of staring off into space, then some brainstorming. Shark Therapy. Pool shark. The Curious Life of Sharkamin Button. Sharkano, like half shark, half volcano.

And that’s when I realized I wasn’t going anywhere, Sharkano, one because I’d have to explain it, it’s a title that doesn’t speak for itself. People would see it and be like, Sharkano? What is that, like half shark half … what? And then maybe the subtitle would be, “Half shark, half volcano.” But even then, that doesn’t make a lot of sense. Maybe a volcano that spews out sharks instead of lava, but I feel that’s kind of just ripping off the Sharknado, a tornado comprised of sharks.

What if I keep it simple? What about a crossover? I could do like Sharkcountant Meets the Sharkitect. You know, maybe the Sharkitect finally does start his own small architecture firm, but he’s bad with numbers, so he needs to hire an accountant. And maybe a few regular human accountants interview for the position, but right before he makes the decision, Sharkcountant walks in.

The Sharkitect obviously wants to pick the other shark, but he doesn’t want to make it look like he’s playing favorites, so he just tells everyone that he went with someone who’d make a better fit. Eventually it would blow up, they’d realize that they have too little in common once they got past the fact that they’re both sharks. And that could lead to the long awaited Sharkitect vs. Sharkcountant, they’d get angry, their true shark natures would tear through and they’d have to fight to the death.

All right, I’m bored. I wish I had never jumped on this bandwagon. Sharknado was fun while it lasted, but did anybody else watch it? It was awful. It wasn’t even funny awful. I didn’t even watch the whole thing. After like fifteen minutes I took stock of my life, I was like, I’m really sitting here watching this? And did anybody else think that there were way too many commercials?

Movie Review: Oblivion

Didn’t Tom Cruise just make a movie called Jack Reacher? It came out a few months ago, right? I mean, this doesn’t have anything to do with Oblivion, not really, except that Tom Cruise’s character’s name here is Jack Harper, which is almost comically similar. In his old age, is Tom Cruise suffering from a classic case of Tony Danza Syndrome, having trouble embodying characters with different names?


Whatever. It’s the future. The moon is partially blown up. There’s a big giant triangle in the sky. Jack Harper tells us that the aliens came, that we won, but the planet got destroyed in the process. So everybody moved to one of Saturn’s moons. Harper is part of a two-person operation, the only ones left behind, the cleanup crew.

I hesitate to say too much more about the plot, because it’s actually a pretty cool story, one that almost necessitates the viewer not knowing anything about it beforehand. If I had to describe it like something else, I’d say it’s about one cup Vanilla Sky, sifted with several heaping teaspoons of The Matrix, with a pinch of Star Wars fight scenes mixed in. After all of these dry ingredients are blended thoroughly, the whole mass is then combined with fifty percent … well, I’m not going to tell you which movie, because again, that would reveal way, way too much. But once you see what they’re doing in Oblivion, it’s obvious. (If you want to be spoiled, just read the New York Times review.) In fact, if Oblivion weren’t actually a decent film, I’d kind of want to call it a rip-off, not entirely, but yeah, fifty percent.

But Oblivion is a pretty good film, which kind of took me by surprise. I guess it’s Tom Cruise’s fault really. The man isn’t even a man anymore, he’s something post-human. He doesn’t age, he’s done like a million huge blockbusters, and he’s sitting in the cockpit of Scientology Inc. When I see Tom Cruise in a movie, I don’t see Jack Harper, or whatever role he’s trying to play, I just see Tom Cruise, jumping up and down on Oprah’s couch, scolding Brooke Shields for taking antidepressants.

And so before the plot really gets going, before we start to figure out exactly what’s going on, Oblivion doesn’t feel like a real movie at all. You know when you’re watching a TV show, and the characters are watching some over the top sci-fi movie on their TV? That’s what this feels like. It feels like you’re watching Ted, but instead of just showing five seconds or so of that Flash Gordon movie, you wind up having to watch the entire thing.

But, and again, I felt the same way watching Vanilla Sky, once you get past Tom Cruise, once you start to look at what’s going on, why the characters are doing what they’re doing, why Jack Harper wears an old Yankees cap every time he descends to the planet, why Morgan Freeman gets prime billing even though his Morpheus-lite character only plays a somewhat minor role, what you’re left with is a nice little film.

It’s everything that I love about sci-fi as a genre. You’re treated to visions of how tomorrow may or may not look. You’re presented with themes and concepts that at once incorporate while at the same time transcend the futuristic technology that paints the backdrop of the story. You’re constantly questioning everything, motives, relationships, the very essence of reality.

Which isn’t to say it’s a perfect movie. There’s a fair share of cheesy one-liners. Like a lot of non-franchised sci-fi, the costumes and settings have a hard time trying not to evoke Star Wars and Star Trek, and as a result, sometimes the future winds up looking a little too boring, a whole quart of plain nonfat yogurt, and not even the trendy Greek kind, just regular Dannon.

My advice: don’t read anything about the movie, you know, aside from this review which, if you’ve made it to this last paragraph, you’ve already read all of it. But that’s fine, because I didn’t tell you to abstain from reviews until right now. Self-serving? A little, yeah. But seriously, just go watch the movie. Don’t question anything until the end. It’s actually kind of cool.

Movie Review: The Host

Wow, I feel like I’ve been had. Is it because it’s a holiday weekend? I thought studios love to snag people in with big movies during holiday weekends. But the only new releases this week were G.I. Joe, some Tyler Perry movie, and The Host.

I’d never heard of The Host, and all the better, I thought to myself. Here’s a chance to really do an honest film review. No marketing campaigns or commercials to influence my opinions beforehand. No, without any preconceived notions, I’d be able to truly judge a motion picture based on what I thought, what I felt.

Well, almost. Right as I was buying my ticket in the theater, I noticed a The Host movie poster. “From the makers of Twilight,” it read. Damn. The ticket lady directed me toward theater one, a room full of teenage girls, the occasional senior citizen, and me, at eleven in the morning on a Friday.

OK, the movie … jeez, I don’t know where to start. I guess I’ll mention that I’ve never actually seen Twilight, so I can’t really give an apt comparison, but I’ve read reviews about Twilight, I’ve seen tons of shows and online videos making fun of Twilight, so yeah, this movie was pretty much like Twilight. Except there aren’t any vampires. There are aliens.

The opening exposition cuts right to the chase, as the main character, Melanie, tells us how we’ve gotten to where we are. Aliens have invaded the earth, these little silver glowing worm aliens. They’re not invading, the invasion is already over. I don’t know how much trouble the first few aliens had in taking over individual earthlings, because they’re so tiny and delicate. They get beamed to our planet in these small silver pods and physically bond with and seize control of individual human beings. But it’s weird because, in order for this to happen, already-possessed humans have to perform a surgical operation on a non-possessed human for the little guys to weasel their way inside.

Backstory isn’t super important, I guess. They’re here. They’ve taken over nearly the whole world. And they’ve brought harmony. They don’t fight. They don’t pollute the planet. Everything’s just great.

Except there are a few remaining humans living like fugitives. The main character, Melanie, she’s caught right away at the beginning. Rather than succumb to the invaders, she chooses suicide, leaping through some pane glass out of a fourth or fifth story window. But she survives. This one’s a fighter. The aliens put an alien inside of her. We can tell because her eyes start glowing. Oh yeah, all of the possessed humans, their eyes all glow bright blue.

I could never wrap my head around this plot device, mostly because the aliens, spending so much time trying to locate the resistance, desperately trying to smoke out any remaining humans, they never think to maybe put on some contact lenses. The eyes are always the dead giveaway of who’s possessed and who’s not.

The alien in Melanie’s body, her name is Wanderer, and at first she’s put in charge of finding the remaining humans, of eliminating the resistance. But that same fighting spirit that helped Melanie survive that fall? You guessed it: it allows her to somehow survive the mind-meld. She’s still around, albeit as a sassy disembodied echo-voice with a Southern accent. But the aliens don’t have Southern accents, just regular accents.

As she struggles to assert dominance in Wanderer’s new body, we learn more of Melanie’s alliterative backstory, about her kid brother Jamie, her boyfriend Jarred, her uncle Jeb. She convinces Wanderer to escape the alien city, to make her way to the desert, where we find the rest of the survivors, living in some intricate network of pretty cozy looking caves. Her uncle Jeb “found” them, somehow. There’s a hospital inside the caves. And electricity. And running hot water. Also, there’s a gigantic system of crank operated mirrors that allow them to grow acres and acres of underground wheat. But they have to retract the mirrors every time an alien helicopter flies by, because you know, they don’t want to get caught. It turns out the whole process is a lot easier than I’d imagine.

The rest of the movie is just this long weird series of events. The Seekers are trying to hunt down the resistance. Melanie’s boyfriend and family at first treat Wanderer like a prisoner, but then they grow to love her. Melanie rekindles her romance. But Wanderer develops a romance for someone else. There’s a lot of perfectly groomed and shaved refugees staring longingly at each other, almost about to kiss, but then fighting off their temptation, because, I don’t know, I guess that’s a teenage problem or something.

What really stuck out to me was that the overall plot of the movie resembled the radical right’s exaggerated fears of what a liberal America might do to God’s favorite country. The aliens are sleek, sophisticated. They live in cities with socialized medicine, socialized everything, there is no more money at all. They wear all white. They drive chrome sports cars, fly chrome helicopters, zip around in chrome motorcycles. They complain in their northern accents that humans are barbaric, polluters of the environment. They shop for big boxes labeled “food” and jugs labeled “water” in big warehouses labeled “Store.” It’s big government at it’s worst, controlling the lives of every citizen, punishing, overbearing, cracking down on dissent in all forms.

The resistance is the real America, down to earth people with real Southern accents, listenin’ to country music, slingin’ shotguns, sayin’ stuff like, “I reckon,” and “ain’t” and “for a spell.” When Wanderer successfully fights off the advances of an admiring boy, Melanie screams in her head, “Hallelujah! (pronounced Hah-luh-LOO-ya!)

Wanderer falls in love with the real America. They rename her Wanda. She says that after being alive for one thousand years, spending her time amongst countless worlds, this is the hardest but most beautiful life in the whole galaxy. It’s American exceptionalism on a cosmic scale.

Now I just feel bad, tearing apart this movie that’s clearly intended for an audience that I’m not a part of. Still, maybe I wouldn’t mind all of the cheesiness if the movie weren’t so boring. The plot isn’t really a plot at all. It’s solipsistic. Most of the movie is the main character talking to herself, about boys, about feelings, about how feelings are hard. Whatever it’s for teenagers.

What was I watching when I was a teenager? Face-Off, The Water Boy, Starship Troopers. I guess it’s a hard market to sell stuff to. Actually, it’s a really easy market to sell stuff to. I don’t know. Next week I’m going to see Evil Dead, so come back and read the review.