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SOPHFIFEST.com store is now open!
Check it out now! All profits go back into running SOPHFFEST.com events. This website is not-for-profit. To get involved with running events, contact Soph at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“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.
“I can’t breathe.”
I imagine the majority of the people who look at this little blog of mine are my friends. It started out as a personal log of my reviews and as time has gone on, I have sought to share it with the outside world and hopefully encourage more people to engage with Science Fiction. However, I believe I have not been representing Science Fiction to its fullest.
Recently, an African American man called George Floyd was murdered by four cops in USA. This is not the first instance of brutality against People Of Colour (POC), and it has been a catalyst for public outcry. People are sick to death of the way POC have been treated, sick of walking down the streets in fear, jogging in fear, people stopping them when they drive their own cars, walk in their own front yards. I really think the murder of George was the last straw.
For myself, I feel outraged and scared and I felt like I could trust police and I also didn’t, and I felt like I could trust governments and I also don’t. My father is a POC and my mother is white, so within me is a duality both in my heritage and the way I see the world, how much trust I place in authorities. I am white enough that I ‘pass’ as white but I’m not really… I am both and neither. My sister has been bullied repeatedly because of the colour of her skin… My dad has been told extremely hurtful things, had to work ten times harder than white colleagues and experienced a lot of other bad, racist things have happened to him as a black Trinidadian man making a life for himself in UK. that I’m certain he has withheld the extent of from us because he is a proud man and doesn’t want to hurt or scare or burden his children. My parents had to fight prejudice as a mixed race couple. Half of my extended family – grandparents, cousins, uncles and aunties – are POC, and the other half not. Our family surname is not white, and I can’t say what impact that might have had on all our job prospects, but it certainly has not been smooth sailing. Even with my family/heritage, I still have to check my privilege and think about using my privilege for good because I am privileged in a lot of ways. I have light skin, I’m educated, I have a good job, I live in a warm flat, I can drink clean water, eat good food and though I fear for my own safety due to queerness I do not live in fear of people because of my skin colour.
Now, in the light of this murder, I am reflecting inwardly and I know I can do more on sophfifest.com for POC. Every top 100 or new sci fi film I watch – with some notable exceptions – I constantly look for POC as leading or supporting men/mxn, women/womxn, trans, non binary or other gendered people and they are nowhere to be seen but it’s not enough to want change. You need to be out there, using your voice, telling anyone who is listening that you are choosing a different way. That the status quo is no longer suitable. I have been angry at the lack of POC in films, but I also have not actively sought them because POC films are not as easy to find and it’s easier to take what you are given. I now realise that this makes me part of the problem. If I want to see more POC in film, I actively need to be a voice for that. It’s not just on POC. It’s on me also. It’s on all of us.
I went to see a documentary at BFI recently called Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror about POC perspectives of Horror films and history. Firstly, I adored the docu. Go watch it now if you haven’t. It’s available to stream on Shudder here. Secondly, and most importantly, the perspective I gained from the docu was mind altering. I was told that throughout history POC have compared the creatures that we see in Horror films to themselves. The ‘otherness’ of these films, teaching people to be scared of things or people who are different implants this feeling of otherness to POC in their lives. They identify with it daily. That’s why representation is so important in all films. When children are shown that this is how to treat people who are different, you might come to believe that this is the norm.
The same is so in science fiction. For the most part, we’re told to fear Artificial Intelligence/Aliens because of the colour of their skin, because they look different, that they of course only wish to harm us, right? How often in sci fi films do we see those entanglements go positively? More often than not, they seem to be portrayed negatively. Additionally, another side effect of erasing POC from sci fi films is that POC are told that there is no future where they could exist. When we see dystopian or utopian future themed film, by excluding POC and portraying the future generations as only white people with blond hair – as has been produced in countless films – we are saying that POC do not matter. It’s just lazy filmmaking, lazy scriptwriting, shortsighted and racist. There’s a great infographic that you should check out which shows statistics for top 100 films in sci fi showing lack of diversity by Jason Low. It said that only 8% were protagonists of colour (none of whom were women) and that they were mostly Will Smith and one cartoon…. That’s crazy, isn’t it?! There was this exercise that shrunk the population of the world to 100 people. If we are to trust its math, it suggested that 30 of those people would be white and 70 non-white. Presuming If that’s the case, why are 99% of film only portraying 30% of the population?
I want http://www.sophfifest.com to be a forum for change, and if I want that I need to be part of the change. To that end, I pledge to read and watch and celebrate more Afrofuturism and POC films by and acted by/lead by POC, and by writing this intention, I will make it so.
(sophfifest.com now includes a reference section linking to artists and collectives that celebrate and explore the POC science fiction experiences and stories. Check them out. I will add more as I go!)
Mrs. Watchett: “Mister Filby, do you think he’ll ever return?”
Filby: “One cannot choose but wonder. You see, he has all the time in the world.”
The Time Machine is set in London at the turn of the century in 1900 and follows a scientist and his journey of scientific breakthrough of the 4th dimensionnnnn! I really enjoyed this film. I always do enjoy old sci fi, where everything looks like it’s made from vacuum cleaner parts, so this film was really fun and endearing. The scientist H. George Wells wants desperately to leave his time and hopes that he can find a better time for humans in the future. Does he? Well, I’ll leave that up to you to find out.
What struck me most about the film was that between the stop animation and models used to depict lava, earthquakes and so on, the special effects in the film were really great for the time. I can imagine if I had seen it in the cinema in the 60s that I would have been amazed. The film does flatten out by the end, however, and I found myself hoping it would end soon. I think the script at the end could have been improved to make the main character less annoying, which would have helped a lot!
Overall, decent film. Would recommend it, with the disclaimer that it is dated in many ways.
Want to watch a gogglebox-style video of me watching the film? Check it out below:
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“If it makes it out of here, millions of people die!”
I don’t really like looking at remakes of classic films because they usually pale in comparison to the original, but I saw that this film had Kristofer Hivju from Game of Thrones in it and Mary Elizabeth Winstead from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and I have massive crushes on both so… Don’t @ me.
Erm just a little reminder that these reviews can have spoilers in them so don’t read them unless you want to know some detail about the film.
I like that this is a slightly different take on the original; in the original, the subjects were at a research facility and had absolutely no idea there was an alien to begin with, but in this one, the humans are in full knowledge after a discovery of an alien ship and approach it in an exceptionally arrogant way, i.e. they think they are 100% in control. Foolish humans. I feel like it is a bit of a homage to the original, with some creepy aspects from other horror films thrown in such as the facehuggers of Alien(s)(ss) ilk. I was expecting there to be a corny nod at the original but this film didn’t acknowledge its existence, which I’m glad about in a way.
Basically all you need to know about this film is this: Smart, educated woman who is a specialist in her field tells a bunch of men that they are in danger and gives empirical proof of this using said qualifications and they all ignore her and a lot of bad shit happens because of it. Surprise surprise.
By the way, the creature in this one reminds me of the creepy creature in the film Color Out Of Space (which I previously reviewed on this blog) so if you want to be similarly creeped out, definitely check out COOS(!)
All in all, I wasn’t blown away. I think it was futile to recreate such a classic film even if just by name unless you are going to blow expectations out of the water. I’m not entirely sure why this film had to be made in the first place, like not one person would have said ‘you know what needs to be remade, what needs improving? The Thing!’ However, it was a fun watch and a perfectly average attempt at a perfectly average movie.
“I could’ve carried him. I should’ve carried him. Who are we if we can’t protect them? Who are we?”
Set in an apocalyptic future, this tense sci fi/horror film follows a family’s struggle to stay alive in a world where aliens with super sensitive hearing hunt humans.
I thought that the acting was great and the film built tension throughout, but it didn’t overdo the jump scares which is what I anticipated. The sound for the film was actually spectacular, its use of music though minimal was brilliant and with purpose, and the sounds of the family’s interaction with the things around them was used expertly to further the tension. I loved that there was a lot of crunchy, repetitive sounds like waterfalls, corn kernels, the sound of grass moving with the wind; all usually sounds that inspire calmness but instead they were juxtaposed with terror thus turning everything on its head!
It also posed a question of what is most important in times of survival and pain, and the answer director Krasinski provided is ‘Family’. I heard a saying once that you “have to eat a lot of shit for your kids” and the parents in this film are no exception. The love for their kids in this is palpable and everything they do is for the survival of their children. Despite the constant, day and night threat to the family, they still continue to value the small things that make a place a home.
A Quiet Place is smart, the pacing of the film was good; I never got bored or wanted it to end. In fact, I was surprised when the film actually did end. I had been on the edge of my seat and did not take my eyes off of the screen once.
Great film. I cannot wait to see A Quiet Place 2.
“Winter is coming…”
So, a while ago when GOT was on TV and episodes were being released one at a time, I remember that I got to season 7 episode 5 and then decided that I wanted to wait it out until the end of the season so I could binge watch it in one go. I stayed away from any mention of GOT after that in case I heard any spoilers about the final episodes/season, and forgot about the show for years, occasionally thinking about finally completing the show. Due to the covid situation and being furloughed, obviously I have a lot of time on my hands, so I decided to finally do it. So I binge watched the entire series, and wanted to unpack my thoughts on the last season of the show. I had heard a lot of negative things about the end and have my own thoughts to throw into the hat…
***SEASON 7/8 REMINDER & OBVS SPOILERS***
At the end of season 7, Jon Snow heads to Dragonstone to meet Daenerys Targaryen and ask her permission to mine for dragonglass which would help the North to defeat the undead army, which has breached the wall and will shortly hit the North and the realm of men. They begin a romantic relationship and also get proof that the undead are real to take with them to attempt to meet with Cersei and her cronies and ask them to set aside their differences and fight together. They do so at great personal cost to Daenerys as one of her dragons is killed by the White Walkers and is turned. Cersei agrees for them to use her army. However unbeknownst to them, this is a lie. Cersei intends to let Jon’s allies, the Wildlings and Daenerys’ Unsullied army and Dothraki dudes fight it alone so that she can take them out when they are at their weakest. Jaime, her brother/lover, decides to do the honourable thing and heads North to help fight against the undead.
In season 8 they head North, regroup and prep to fight. Jon tells Daenerys that he has learned who his true parents are and that he is the true heir to the throne, but that he does not wish to pursue it. Bran Stark becomes the bait to the Ice King and awaits him at the Godswood in Winterfell. The fight itself is long and bloody. The snow makes it hard to see and the armies are pushed back to Winterfell. One of the remaining dragons on the human side is killed. The other is attacked on the ground and leaves Daenerys with only her swordsman Jorah to defend her. Both Jon and Daenerys attempts to kill the Ice King and are unsuccessful. Jon heads to the castle to attempt again and is prevented from getting any further by the dragon that was turned. The Ice King gets through to the inner part of the castle to the Godswood and kills Theon Greyjoy to get to Bran. As he pulls his sword to kill Bran, Arya Stark jumps on his back and kills him/it and the entire undead army explode. The humans celebrate their wins. It is clear that the North do not really trust Daenerys as their queen but Jon clearly loves her and has pledged to support her claim of the throne, but she is upset about the news that Jon had told her about his lineage and considers him a threat to her claim. The latter part of the season involves the remaining army heading south to Kings Landing to try to take the throne. Daenerys advisers try to tell her to be cautious about her strategy and consider the lives of the innocent citizen’s of Kings Landing, but ultimately she ignores them (particularly after Cersei has her aid/best friend Missendei beheaded). The army breaches the city, and are terrified by the dragon. Cersei stays waiting in the red tower visibly upset when the town falls and her soldiers announce their surrender. And then something in Daenerys snaps and she has her dragon burn down the city, including the citizens. Cersei and her bro – who Tirion Lannister helped escape from the Unsullied camp – die after being crushed. Jon speaks to Daenerys and it is clear that she will continue her path until others are similarly ‘liberated, to which Jon kills Daenerys to prevent further bloodshed. Her army leave. The lords of the houses agree Kings and Queens will no longer inherit their position through the bloodline, choosing Brandon Stark as their King. Tyrion is chosen as hand of King. Jon is sent to the wall to live out his days. THE END.
Soooooo there’s a lot to unpack here. Here are the things I don’t understand about the last season and the show in general I guess…
There are so many unanswered questions I have that were not addressed, or not addressed well. It seems a shame to me that GOT could have been so well written only for the author/show writers/whoever to fumble it. That said at the end of the show Tyrion tells Jon that in discussion of what to do with Jon following him killing Queen Daenerys and their decision to send him to the wall to live out his days, that none of the lords and ladies came away feeling very happy about the ending and that he supposed that it meant it must have been a good compromise. Perhaps that is a little message to us watchers out there. We all watched patiently for years while GOT killed off all our beloved characters one by one, villains got away with things, and when it comes down to it are we happy with the ending? Well in a word, no….
But hey I guess it was a good compromise and I did, however, very much enjoy the journey. <3
“We can’t define consciousness because consciousness does not exist. Humans fancy that there’s something special about the way we perceive the world, and yet we live in loops as tight and as closed as the hosts do, seldom questioning our choices, content, for the most part, to be told what to do next.”
Since the original Westworld film is the one of my favourite sci fi films, I was very resistant about watching the series despite so many people telling me I should watch it. I have finally gotten around it. I was worried previously that the series would be an exact replica of the film, like so many have done before with some of my most loved films, and the film would not be done justice. I am glad to see that this is not the case. Westworld the series uses the same concept of robots gone wrong + wild wild west but instead of just being a slasher type horror, it is an onion of many layers and twists and turns which stands apart from the film of the same name whilst delving even deeper into consciousness and what makes humans human.
The robots (or ‘hosts’) on this grand amusement park are intended as an expensive vacation for humans, allowing them to blow off some steam from their stressful day jobs. The hosts loop through set storylines which have been carefully curated and managed by a group of ever-watching science-dudes. Things start to devolve, the hosts begin remembering past iterations of their lives and question their realities, and in that are able to break their own coding and access their more devious survival traits.
What I like most about this series/TV show so far is that the timelines are not necessary linear and you are left with this uneasy feeling, not knowing whether to trust what you are really seeing and wondering who the FUCK is Arnold. The Westworld film served to show us how monstrous robots are, but in this series humans are equally under the microscope and it’s they who are shown to be the real monsters.
10/10! Love the series. It’s done an amazing job with the namesake and I am watching season two as I type!
“We’ve passed on all we know. A thousand generations live in you now. But this is your fight.”
This episode sees Rey and the gang return for the ninth edition, continuing the fight against the Order (this time the Order means BIZNEZ). Check it out, it’s on NOWTV at the moment.
I really enjoyed this film. I wasn’t sure what to expect since I found episode VIII to be a little silly, and worried this final episode would be no different and end up feeling anticlimactic. But surprisingly, it was better than I imagined. Rey kicked butt, there were moments where I thought all hope had been lost, moments where I felt elation, moments when I felt despair and sobbed… and throughout Rey and Kylo Ren/Ben’s relationship development (I don’t mean romantic, but relationship to one another) was a wonderful, one-of-a-kind little sprout that grew from the darkness into something amazing.
Above all that though, what I enjoyed most was this feeling like I could truly see what the force was by the end, see it moving through people. The films have always touched on what the force could allow someone to do, e.g. someone floating some rocks, someone pretending to be somewhere they were not, someone dangling a person by the neck off of the ground or stopping someone from getting away… but in this latest trilogy I could finally see interconnectedness (at least between Jedi) and that its power lived in all who could harness it despite distance and despite death.
“In life, there is the Force. In the Force, there is life. And the Force is eternal.“
Wonderful end to the new Star Wars generation. All in all this film really invigorated my love for Star Wars and I can’t wait to see what else the SW has to offer us.
“Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.”
I really enjoyed this dystopian tale and am looking forward to how this will develop with sequel, The Testaments.
Without giving too much away, it’s a story about women in a future where their choices are taken away. It’s set in USA, the free world, so of course as you follow Offred’s journey and find out about her life and where she comes from you have this feeling like everything is so unfair. However, as I read through the story, I considered the lives of women/womxn in countries where their rights are not a given, where they are not free to drive a car, to have their own bank account, to work… and that’s not some dystopian fictional future… that’s happening now… today… So I read this with an uneasy feeling that although it was fiction, it could very easily be a reality, and though it is fiction to me, it is not fiction to other unfortunate people.
All in all though, it’s a great read and at its very essence is the human spirit’s desire to be free and have hope, no matter the circumstances.