Tag Archives: Science Fiction

Metamorphosis (1990) Review

Contributor: Rick McGimpsey

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Here is the first of a series of reviews in which I will select a perfectly random film and give my thoughts on it. The selection will be completely randomized and will reflect neither pattern, rhyme, nor reason. One day I may review an obscure horror flick (like I am doing today), a mainstream blockbuster, a classic comedy, a silent film, or a TV movie. With a catalog of over a thousand films at my disposal I have opted to shuffle the list and pic which one comes to the top. Today’s shuffling has presented me with this early 90’s flick by Italian filmmaker George Eastman who, among other things, had achieved a certain infamy for writing such sleazy films as Anthropophagus and Porno Holocaust. Metamorphosis may not be as grotesque as those two, but I would not call it a good movie by any means.

Metamorphosis is an exercise in stiffness and apathy. There is not a shot in this movie that doesn’t look stale and there isn’t one scene where an actor doesn’t seem either bored or emotionless. Even the obligatory sex scene is stiff and passionless.

The main character is a geneticist who is experimenting with a serum that he hopes will end aging. Instead, in typical mad scientist fashion the serum backfires after he tests it on himself and it slowly causes him to transform. His aggression increases and he has lapses in memory in which he switches back and forth between his normal self and a vicious violent criminal. He has dreams and visions in which he sees himself raping and beating a woman that later he finds out are memories coming to the surface of his actions during one of these lapses. As he grows more violent and vicious his body begins to transform as well. By the end of the film he turns into a giant lizard monster that rasps and growls and kills anyone who gets in his way. At the end of the movie the police gun him down as his girlfriend and her son look on in horror. A cop asks another scientist “what was that?” and the scientist responds “a nightmare from the past.” I am not invested enough to really care, but if I was forced to interpret I would think the scientist was suggesting that our anti-hero had de-evolved into a lizard. Which is kind of stupid since humans are derived from apes not lizards. But who really gives a shit about accuracy with films of this type?
But to be honest I really don’t give a shit about anything in this movie at all. Accuracy least of all. The story is beyond ridiculous and the acting is so stiff that nothing said or done makes me root for anyone. The only thing I rooted for in this movie was the short run time.

The film finally ends with the girlfriend’s son talking about how the geneticist can never die as he holds a small cage with his pet lizard inside. His mother looks at the lizard in horror as if to suggest she suspects her ex is living on inside her son’s pet. Whether he does or not is of no consequence to me. I really don’t care. None of these characters are given any time for development so I cannot give a flying fuck about what makes them tick or what makes them happy or unhappy.
Metamorphosis feels like a bad X-Files episode getting away with something. In fact if one was to excise the gore and nudity this plot would make for any cheesy episode of any supernatural TV show of the 90’s.

Next time I will stick with Kafka if I want a story about a metamophosis.

Top 5 Things You Do Not Say to The Dark Tower Fans

Contributor: Rick McGimpsey

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1. Kaa led them to the Dark Tower? That’s bizarre! I mean the Harry Potter references are one thing, but Jungle Book characters are a bit too much!

2. The first three books were good, but then they just got real weird and went off the rails. Apparently half way through Stephen King forgot the face of his father.

3. Yeah this series is definitely not one of Stephen King’s better works. Oh well, not all can be winners. I’m going back to reading The Tommyknockers.

4. Dark Tower? Stephen King wrote a fanfiction about the Barad-Dur? Cool!

5. With Stephen King inserting himself into the story and making Easter Egg references to ‘Salem’s Lot and The Stand I begin to question whether Stephen King has not become too narcissistic. It’s like his career wound down and Dark Tower is nothing more than his literary “Greatest Hits” album!

Next Monday: Sci-Fi Movie Month

Top 5 Things You Do Not Say to Stargate: SG-1 Fans

Contributor: Rick McGimpsey

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1. Stargate: Universe was a much better show hands down.

2. You lost me at MacGyver and Anubis being enemies. I am sorry I am going to stick with more intelligent Sci-fi I am comfortable with like Tripping the Rift or something.

3. This show should have stayed on Showtime. The boobs would have made it watchable.

4. Stargate? Umm..no. Sorry I don’t much care for Bioware’s D&D games.

5. What this series needs is a good J. J. Abrams theatrical reboot!

Next week: Top 5 Things You Do Not Say to Family Guy Fans

Top 5 Things You Do Not Say to Star Trek: The Next Generation Fans

Contributor: Rick McGimpsey

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1. Kirk was way better than Picard. Kirk had a strong presence and sense of command. Picard is just a foppish old fart with dusty books, fancy talk, and tea. Ultimate sissy captain!

2. Am I the only one who was glad that Data died in Nemesis?!

3. This series had too much Romulan Cold War stuff and not enough Pakleds and Risa.

4. If this series doesn’t show that Jerry Goldsmith was the worst thing to happen to Star Trek nothing will.

5. The Inner Light and Chain of Command are probably some of the worst TNG episodes ever made.

March 16: Top 5 Things You Do Not Say to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Fans

Top 5 Things You Do Not Say to Star Trek: The Original Series Fans

Contributor: Rick McGimpsey

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1. Picard was way better than Kirk. He didn’t waste hours making love to weird green alien women, fighting cheesy lizard people, and visiting strange new worlds that all look like the same reused sets.

2. This show is so dull and boring! There is absolutely no chemistry between Spock, Kirk, and McCoy!

3. The third season was where this series really got good. We had such phenomenal sci-fi stories such as Spock’s Brain, The Way to Eden, and The Children Shall Lead.

4. This show is such an obvious Star Wars rip-off. Shame on you, Gene Roddenbery!

5. City on the Edge of Forever and Amok Time are probably the worst Star Trek episodes ever filmed.

This Sunday: Top 5 Things You Do Not Say to Star Trek: The Next Generation Fans

Dead Space 3 Review

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Can Isaac Clark survive a third round with the Necromorph scourge?

Dead Space 3 is an amazingly great game in spite of a few, yet obvious flaws. Its superb combat and addictive collecting and upgrade mechanics are great additions to the franchise, however the game is plagued by it’s constant errand running, and rather bland story along with a strong sense of deja vu that make up the better half of its nineteen chapter adventure.Despite these flaws, just with the previous entries, I can’t stop playing. .

Dead Space 3 also marks the first game where  co-op is an option. (Player 2 taking control of Sgt. John Carver) Very few games boast a rich atmosphere as Dead Space 3. Visceral Game’s engine easily renders everything in crystalline clarity. The eerily depth of space stretches out in differently in a haze which channels the spirit of the 80’s sci-fi and horror films while the snow and ice driven terrain of Tau Volantis pays homage to John Carpenter’s The Thing.

The music and sound design are top notch along with the visuals. They support each other well enough with traces back to classic genre soundtracks from Brian May (The Road Warrior), James Horner (Alien), and Hans Zimmer (The Dark Knight Trilogy). The voice acting is also done really well.

When it was announced that Dead Space 3 would have co-op, many fans were fearful that this meant that the series were moving away from its horror roots and to the more mainstream stage of action-thriller. Playing in co-op erodes the sense of isolation, but the lingering feelings of dread and scares remain intact. For those who don’t want nor care about playing in co-op, they can still have a relatively faithful Dead Space experience. The game responds pretty decent to the addition of a second player which will definitely come in handy in some of the more difficult encounters and boss fights. Carver’s presence also introduces some new lines of dialogue as well as a bunch of great optional co-op missions that explore his very tragic past. These co-op missions are some of the best parts of the overarching story and it makes me wish why Visceral didn’t put it as an option that you could do Carver’s back-story alone instead of on co-op.

Just like in the first two games, the combat reigns supreme in Dead Space 3. The combat is physical, vicious, and feral. The strategic dismemberment concept is the Dead Space franchise’s bread and butter. Even if you’ve played the first two games, Dead Space 3’s combat is still some of the most unique and satisfying of this generation.

Perhaps one of the most intriguing additions to Dead Space 3 is crafting and upgrading system. Gone are the days where you’d buy your weapons and ammo and health items at a store. This new concept really adds to the combat experience. The player will constantly be on the look out for new parts and resources to either build a new weapon, or upgrade their existing one. These decisions on what the player chooses to do makes for terrific tension all on its own. These new systems work together in a way that it creates a reward structure in which you’ll want to come back to.

Like I previously mentioned, Dead Space 3’s story feels bland and forced. Isaac has retreated from society, left his new girlfriend, and turned his back on the fight against the Unitologists and their markers. Yet when he finds out that Ellie is in trouble that is what propels him forward to fight on. Why now and why not earlier when she called and left a dozen different messages for him? This is the introduction to a fairly boring and uninteresting love triangle along with a series of far-fetched events. I will not go into spoiler territory but there is no way that with what the player discovers on Tau Volantis would go unnoticed for 200 years which could’ve helped the fight against the markers and the necromorphs. The writers must have noticed this because there’s an entire prologue trying to sell this single plot point. Also things seem to conveniently fall into place when Isaac and his team start to piece everything together in the second half of the game.

In addition to this stumbling story, Visceral has seemed to have backtracked to the original game as most of the progression is spent doing chores and errands. Isaac just can’t catch a break as whatever could go wrong, does go wrong and the solution is almost always either finding some lost item in a building on the other side of where you are. This structure feels so similar in routine and weakness of the original, at times Dead Space 3 feels more like Dead Space 1 all over again.

This shows that Visceral really didn’t have anything new to add to the lore or story. Isaac is a broken shell of his former self and this results in him being flat and rather bland throughout the majority of the game with very little development. Instead of some clever game-play that we saw in Dead Space 2, like the straightjacket intro or the grueling and horrific eyeball needle sequence. We’re instead treated to a bunch of mediocre mini-games and fetch quests. Other nagging issues include a reoccurring boss fight with a creature in which you must fight on three separate occasions. a terrible, and rather awkward fight against an angry drill, and an extremely generic final boss fight. Considering the elegance, sophistication, and lore of the world, combat and upgrade/crafting mechanics, it’s a shame that everything else feels rather meh.

The combat system and the world that Visceral has created in Dead Space 3 is so expertly woven and built that I found myself overlooking my main critiques and complaints because I thoroughly enjoyed playing it. This is a very important distinction to make: loving a game while being aware of its faults. Dead Space 3, when played the way I have, on New Game+ is an engrossing and satisfying experience. However it requires ignoring the bland story and the numbing to do lists. It only then becomes about building up the most powerful, best outfitted Isaac that you can imagine. Dead Space 3 may stumble and even fall down on itself sometimes, but it learns on how to pick it self back up in the aspects of combat, and upgrading/crafting.

Rating: 8/10

Contributor: [Adam Buskirk]

My Top 20 Favourite Films #18: Brazil

Contributor: Rick McGimpsey

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Terry Gilliam is an extremely talented director who has masterfully succeeded at making films that go against conventional norms; giving us bizarre plots, odd dark comedy, and brutal satire that all come together in some of the most memorable films in cinema history. Some are ridiculously goofy like Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Some are brilliantly conceived like 12 Monkeys. And some are dark, frightening, and unsettling like his often misunderstood Tideland.

But of all his films, I think my favourite is Brazil. It combines all of the traditional Gilliam-esque elements such as dark socio-political satire, weird humour, insane visuals, and overall oddness treated with complete seriousness that make his films unique.

Brazil is set in a dystopic future England where materialism and mass-consumerism are the primary focus of its dull, joyless inhabitants. Any snippet of beauty, taste, love, and desire for meaning is easily swept away in this world where death and poverty are an inconvenience, money, looks, and property are life itself; and consumerism is regarded with near-religious reverence (we even see a group of people carrying signs saying “Consumers For Christ” in one scene). This world in its long effort for convenience and pleasure has ceased to exist with purpose or meaning.

What sets this film different from most dystopic science fiction stories is that it does not focus on the revolutionaries, the resistance, or the cruel governments and political arena. The plot of this story directs itself toward the dullest corner of the world: the paperwork. The most we learn about this future depicted in the film is from clerks, bureaucrats, and desk-employees. No epic battles for freedom, rebel alliances, or evil dictators are too be found in Brazil.

Brazil centres around an office worker who is sent to deliver an official “apology” to a widow whose husband was killed by the government when his name mistakenly came up in a political dissidents list thanks to a clerical error. When he goes to give the poor woman a waiver to sign he spots a young lady from the upstairs apartment who bears an uncanny resemblance to a woman from his daydreams. In these bizarre fantasies he is a winged hero fighting evil beings and rescuing a recurring beautiful lady from danger winning her heart in the process. Seeing the girl of his dreams (literally) existing in real life leads him try to track her down, find her, and declare his love for her. Unfortunately this search leads him on a dangerous quixotic venture that inevitably leads him to go down in favour of the government and put his career and life in danger.

What I love about this film is how it uses the absurdest of plots to convey a satiric world with such sharp, poignant criticism of materialism that you almost wonder if such a world could exist. We see human beings rendered into mindless consumers with no emotion or sense of moral conscience leaving a bizarre tale that is resounding in its truth.

The visuals and cinematography are, notably, also well-done and leaves the viewer impressed with what a filmmaker can do when creating fictional places without CGI.
I highly recommend Brazil for those who like good dystopic fiction with a dash of humour.