Guardians of the Galaxy [2014]

“You said it yourself, bitch! We’re the Guardians of the Galaxy.”


So, my partner had never seen this film before, so I decided that had to be remedied, forthwith, though I have seen this before in the cinema. On second watching though, it is still as charming and had me laughing just as gleefully as the first time.

The film follows the escapades of the ‘Guardians’: Peter Quill, grifter extraordinaire and the heart of the group with a penchant for 70s and 80s rock ‘n’ pop tunes; Gamora, adopted/kidnapped daughter of the most evil dick in the universe Thanos and one of the most badass bitches in the universe; Rocket Raccoon, the genetically modified brains and engineer of the gang; Drax the Destroyer, the brawn whose childlike, literal manner is really quite touching; and lastly but not leastly Groot, who has the most limited vocab of the bunch but always manages to get his point made and is equal parts wrathful and sweetness. Special mentions to both Nebula (Gamora’s estranged sis) and The Collector (played by Benicio Del Toro) who was just plain creepy and weird; also did anyone notice Nathan Fillion (Firefly) and Rob Zombie in this film(?!) I just read their names in the cast list and I am SHOOK.

I digress.

On paper, this modicum of misfits really shouldn’t work but in reality they fit together like a puzzle, and both as characters and as actors there’s a chemistry on screen that you cannot deny.

This movie is just pure fun, and in terms of the Marvel universe, it was a welcome change from the previous timelines of MCU films which took a darker turn. It feels like the perfect blend of entertainment, action and humour, and I suspect its existence set the bar extremely high for subsequent Marvel films to come.

The soundtrack is an absolute joy and I loved it. I actually bought the soundtrack on tape the first time I saw the film so that I could enjoy it long after. Tape sparks this really reminiscent thing in me about my own childhood and making my own mixtapes. I remember painstakingly recording my favourite songs off of the radio (which is what you had to do if you didn’t have the album yourself in the days before on-demand streaming music). For those who don’t know, you would have to sit and wait for it to play out as it recorded so not something you could make idly like you can with a Tidal or Spotify playlist… It’s so funny to me that that specific aspect of the movie would only speak to older generations, because newer ones wouldn’t understand how precious that is and how much work would have gone into making a gift like that. That Peter’s mum would have made it, ridden with cancer as she was, speaks to a really profound love for Peter and was such a simple yet touching aspect which enveloped the movie with love. The soundtrack is perfectly woven into the movie, so that every song showcased has a significant purpose.

SPOILER & CN – ableism: There’s one moment in the movie which made me feel quite uncomfortable which is where Rocket makes Peter talk an amputee into getting his prosthetic leg from him (for a price) and laughs gleefully about how the amputee must have looked without it. I wondered how disabled people would have interpreted that moment… there’s an obvious shift in the Guardians on-screen about this making them feel uncomfortable and it seems to be a symbol that though Rocket is advanced, he is still an animal at heart… I think if that was the intention, it could have been done a different way that was not ableist and didn’t poke fun at disabled people… USA’s president Mr Trump has got that basic shit covered, so I hear. This is the one bit that dates the movie for me, because its existence is a sign of society acceptance (at the time) of subtle digs at disabled people like it’s just ‘innocuous fun’. I very much believe that would not have made it to screen by today’s standards.

Anyways, despite this I enjoyed the film a lot. It was a really fun (re-)watch, the casting was perfection, the action was so good and CGI really gorgeous (particularly the massive floating skull in space and the interlocking ships). I loved that the characters were complicated and had space to grow and change as the story progressed. It’s still a solid top ten MCU film of all time for me. Thumbs up!

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Kindred by Octavia E. Butler [book]

“Books could be awesome mysteries to her, or they could be dangerous time-wasting nonsense”


CN slavery racism & also spoilers……

I just finished reading Kindred by Octavia E. Butler and I was really moved by it. This book is about time travel but it is so much more than that. It’s about slavery, race, class, love, power dynamics and the transformative nature of education. I have a LOT of feelings to unpack here and they are quite disjointed so please bear with me…

The story follows Dana, a 1970s black woman who finds herself transported to another time. She is drawn to a young, white boy called Rufus who she discovers is – SPOILERS – her ancestor. She realises that she must protect him at all costs for the sake of her bloodline, whilst trying to survive the antebellum/plantation (slavery era) south.

I won’t talk much about the story but am instead going to unpack the themes…

Slavery & education: In slavery times, it was discouraged/illegal for black slaves to be educated. Enslavers believed that educated black slaves were dangerous… Octavia also says in Kindred that “repressive societies always seemed to understand the danger of ‘wrong’ ideas” like liberty and autonomy and this is SPOT ON… I was reminded that education is an absolute privilege and something we cannot be complacent about. Even today, the disparity in levels of education benefits the (overwhelmingly white) elite, rich and powerful whilst minorities are not given the same consideration or opportunities. Racism and classism still exists today. Slavery still exists today around the world, which still impacts the lives of People Of Colour. In Britain, the government until very recently were still paying corporations for ‘loss of earnings’ caused by abolishing slavery in the UK, as if those corporations had any right to those earnings in the first place… I think that says a lot about how recent it all was, and how it is all just barely below the surface…

The book also made me think that it’s extremely important we know how grim history really is so that we can be better now and in the future, and how woefully inadequate history lessons at school are to speak honestly of our past. Unfortunately, history looks to white-wash over reality so that we don’t realise how abusive colonialism/slavery was and the generational trauma that it caused. Instead we are taught little ditties about Kings and Queens…

Style & Technology omissions & Power: Regarding the style of this book, I know that others have criticised it for being too conversational and also not explaining how Dana came to travel through time or why. Firstly on the style of writing, Dana is an author and mentions writing her story down so I truly believe the style is a reflection of that. We’re hearing the account from Dana’s perspective as if she is reading out the account she wrote down. Secondly, I really enjoyed not having the technology side put on a platter for me, and indeed I believe that this speaks to Dana’s lack of power. There are frequent references to power dynamics throughout. I believe that if Dana knew why this was happening, if she knew the science of it, she would be able to stop it but she is powerless so she must accept her fate and the reality that she may never know what happened or why.

Love: And lastly, this book told of great love. The love between mother and child. Love beyond limitations of time and space. Love that protects. Love that bonds. And on the flipside, we see the abusive, possessive, dysfunctional love that the Weylins exhibit both among themselves and towards Neil, Alice and Dana. It was inferred that Dana should be thankful for this so-called love, that she was being treated differently because of it, but love cannot exist in such a power struggle. I really think that Dana believed that the education and love she brought would be enough to change history, but did it? Great change only comes to those who want it, to people who are open to accept love and have a willingness to change which comes from an awareness that they are somewhat broken. The irony that the book was called Kindred was not lost on me. Kindred has many meanings. It, of course, means family but it also means similarity as in ‘kindred spirit’. However, there was little kindred spirit between Dana and Rufus. Instead she found family and love in those around her who had a similar, shared trauma that she had and by rejecting the so-called love Rufus would go on to give her, she really risked her own survival.

Questioning my own ancestry: REWIND. For those who don’t know me and my background, I’m mixed and sci-fi was something I reached for to make sense of feeling this otherness. I know that my ancestors/relations were definitely slaves and I believe there may have been slave overseers in my black bloodline (though to the naked eye, I am white passing). I personally felt very uncomfortable feelings reading this book because of my own bloodline but there’s a lot of growth to be had in uncomfortable feelings so I really am thankful for it.

In conclusion, I loved this book. It is profoundly important. Due to the intentional conversational style of writing, it makes it a super easy to read. I was touched by the love that came off of the pages, despite the traumatic story. It reminded me that I am privileged to be educated and I should never forget it, and it made me question my own ancestry and what I can learn from the past to create a better future. This book should be on the national curriculum.

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Flight of the Navigator [1986]

“I’m sorry, but I don’t belong here now. I love you.”


Thanks to Sam for hosting a great watchparty on Plex and letting me see this long-forgotten gem.

This film follows 12 year old David, played by Joey Cramer. David wakes up after falling in a ravine in the woods and finds out that he has been gone for 8 years and has no memory of what happened! At the same time a mysterious space ship arrives, and NASA are fumbling to find answers.

There’s really not much to say about this. On second watching, this film was a really fun watch.

It has dated quite a bit and there are some scenes which, if the film was made now would be totally inappropriate e.g. Carolyn the adult intern flirting with David, but I didn’t think any of it took away from the film.

The CGI (for its time) and look of the inner ship was so so so good. The ship looked a bit like a clam shell but was pretty believable. The soundtrack was excellent and catchy in an electro-80s sort of way. There wasn’t really much to the story; it wasn’t complicated at all but the simplicity made it fun to watch. It felt like such a fun adventure, and at times was really moving and heartfelt. I loved the relationship between David and his brother who were incredibly sweet. I remember when I watched it as a child, it felt like a naughty adventure to be on, defying the adults and NASA’s orders in the way David did. To be honest, NASA seemed totally incompetent like they had no idea what was going on throughout, even less than David did, which was pretty amusing and David’s instincts felt spot on. The film really has it all… time travel, aliens, space, mind transfer, technology, robotics… what more could you ask for? Oh and lastly the little puppet alien monsters in it look like they came straight out of a Jim Henson playbook so were gnarly but also super cute!

This is a must-watch film and I LOVE IT. It’s dated but utterly charming. I would recommend it a million times over. Don’t expect too much of it, but it’s just really fun and a completely underrated film.

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Annihilation [film, 2018]

“It’s destroying everything.”

“It’s not destroying everything. It’s making something new.”


Thanks to those who came to the SOPHFIFEST watchparty in November! This is the film we watched 🙂 Massive spoilers below, but I promise you that you will thank me…

It’s quite hard to describe this film but if I had to, I would probably say it started like a phenomenon-adventure film and ended like a beautiful, strange Lady Gaga music video.

The first thing that struck me, having read the book, was how unlike the book the film was. Having read into some of the background, I can now see why. The film was the lovechild of Alex Garland, writer and director of such films as Ex Machina. Apparently his vision for the film was to make a loose adaptation of the book. The main characters and themes and some of the ideas that came out of the book are there in the film, but much like the prism landscape in Area X they went into Garland’s mind, were changed irrevocably, and came out different… and I can’t say it was for the better…

There were some things which really bothered me (we won’t even go into detail about the noiseless love-making scene which creeped me out)…

With the exception of one scene at the top of the movie, it felt like Lena’s driving force only related to her husband and finding out the truth for him. The book, however, reveals that her and her husband are quite estranged and that her reasoning for wanting to go into The Shimmer was much more complicated than that, so the film missed the mark on that.

It bothered me that it felt like I didn’t know any of the supporting cast members that well, i.e. Lena’s colleagues who also went into Area X except what I was told… that they were women with little to no ties to the earth outside of Area X (due to cancer/loss of children) and one of them was probably gay. I felt like the director interpreted the book to suggest that the peripheral characters did not deserve to be afforded any nuance and at times the agency to tell their own story themselves, which was offputting to say the least. In the book, they were travelling for days, and whilst the spotlight was on Lena it didn’t mean I didn’t get to know the other scientists. I wondered how different the film would have been if the script had been written by a woman. It felt like a lot of time was spent trying to convince me this was a Feminist film (with a big F) but then fell totally short.

There was also a bit where Lena shoots something and a colleague asks her where she learned to shoot like that, to which she explained she had been in the military. It made me wonder, would we the audience ever question a hypermasculine man’s ability to shoot a gun if we saw him save lives? In doing so, it felt like the audience was seeking Natalie Portman’s authority to be able to shoot a gun successfully, instead of just accepting she could do it. Imagine one of the characters in Aliens asking Vasquez where she learned to shoot in the same way, or The Terminator or any other character really. We know Lena is qualified and capable and powerful already because she shot the thing to death…

And then there’s a part where the medical character sees a man with a thing squirming inside him and she denies its existence. It just undermines women because she’s meant to be a qualified, educated person and is painted in this truly ignorant way… I read around to see if anyone else experienced this film in a similar way, and I think this blog really sums it up. I have to agree, I found the film pretty insulting.

The cinematography/CGI was strikingly beautiful. Not just the shimmer itself but the flower-people were really well done.

I also really enjoyed Jennifer Jason Leigh’s depiction of the Psychologist. The ethereal way she talked in the movie made me question whether she was real, whether any of it was real.

The pinnacle of the whole film ended up what seemed like a dance battle with someone in a metallic full bodysuit which seemed quite pointless…

In conclusion, I think this film was a beautiful waste of time, but I really didn’t like how the characters were portrayed in such a flat way. I think it had great potential. The book itself was so compelling and I really wanted to know more… but it felt like the director missed the point both in the Feminist message he tried to put out and also in the plot. I would say don’t waste your time. Read the book instead.

UPDATE 20/11/2020 – That said I know lots of people really LOVE LOVE LOVED this film. Far be it from me to write off an entire film. I would say take this film with a big old pinch of salt. It’s well casted, looks amazing but it is pretty flawed. You have been warned.

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Interstellar [2014]

“Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”


This film (written and directed by Christopher Nolan) follows engineer and pilot, Cooper (played by Matthew McConaughey who I thought was an excellent choice… the lofty way he moves and talks makes it seem like he has no gravity in his body so was totally believable as a spaceman) in a time not too far in the future. Humans have ravaged the earth and along with food shortages, all their fun times are being broken up by damn dust storms. DAMN YOU DUST STORMS! These shortages have necessitated people to concentrate on survival which seems to impact all areas in life, including what pathway kids take in school. NASA has all been shut down but are operating in secret to think of ways to save humanity. Inexplicably, Cooper’s path crosses with NASA and they send him on a journey to save everyone.

The rest, as they say, is history. OR IS IT?

Okay, so I really enjoyed this movie. I thought it was really engaging, the CGI and acting was excellent. It was beautiful and had me on the edge of my seat, and I’m guaranteed to enjoy ANY film that has a robot in it… Apart from Prometheus which I thought was a bag of dicks…

Anywho… the problem I had with it is that I had trouble suspending my disbelief throughout because of certain parts of the storyline. SPOILERSSSS!

***

Why would NASA be shut down as being too frivolous and expensive if their aim was to save humanity? Why would educators change the history books and teach children that space exploration was faked and didn’t happen? Wouldn’t they want, if anything, to get the best scientific minds on the planet working out how to save everyone which if anything would mean putting MORE resources into science? It seemed like the problem fell solely on Michael Caine’s character’s shoulders…

The blight has destroyed all but corn, apparently, but they still have beer. Is it corn beer? Is everything they’re eating just corn? Is the only reason it is surviving because it’s Monsanto GMO corn?

Anne Hathaway’s character tells her crew that LOVE IS THE ANSWER when asked to make a major decision which impacts literally humanity’s survival. Like, dude, you’re a scientist. But screw all your stats and figures and equations, amirightladiessss. She did end up being correct though, and this spirituality of love saving the world really echoed the film Contact, which also suggested that love was the one thing through the darkness and expanse of the universe that connected us all. This felt like an epic eye-roll moment, but maybe I’m just a cynic…

We know that time is of the essence in this film. Like Michael Caine’s character says: “I’m not afraid of death, I’m an old physicist. I’m afraid of time.” It feels like Nolan is also afraid of time, and indeed the film really wastes no time; not even to flesh out some of the major characters that appear later in the film after Cooper goes to interstellar space…

I have many more questions than answers with this film but when all is said and done, I thought it was really enjoyable.

The soundscape of the film did an excellent job of making it pretty tense and accentuating key moments, to the point where it felt like a real kick in the chest.

The science of the film was sound, i.e. how wormholes sort of work (nice paper explanation of how they work, which I remember seeing explained the same way in Event Horizon), the idea of time swelling or changing relative to black hole proximity and the multi-dimensional theory was also sound. Albert Einstein once said “People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” Interstellar did an excellent, creative job of showing what that might look like and how time could be manipulated. That if humans were able to perceive more than the three dimensions we currently can, that we might perceive the past, present and future all at once! Though I sincerely don’t believe he would have survived travelling through a singularity…

The presence of scifi/horror elements in the film personally made me feel uneasy and my impending doom-ometer was going wild. I really don’t know if it was intentional, but the aforementioned Event Horizon bit… the presence of cornfields… a robot in space who I suspected any minute would turn on the crew whilst they were in stasis… all of these elements added up to create a pretty tense film.

But what I loved the most was that Interstellar prompted really deep questions in my mind about the universe and reality and time.

***

So in conclusion, I think it’s an insanely epic undertaking of a film. Some say that Nolan shot for the stars and missed with this film and that it was overly ambitious. Despite its flaws, I think it was wondiferous and imperfect all at once and I would definitely recommend this thought-provoking film.

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