Space Sweepers [2021]

“Who cares if a million lives are lost?”


Oh man, this film is incredible. Where do I even begin? So Space Sweepers is a South Korean space western film. It was released in 2021 and directed by Jo Sung-Hee. Apparently it’s regarded as the first Korean space blockbuster, which is amazing, and it’s available to watch on Netflix if you haven’t seen it. Obviously the next bit of this post is very spoilery (as per usual) so you know… continue at your own peril.

So the premise of the film is that it’s the year 2092 and the earth has become pretty much uninhabitable evidenced by people having to wear breathing apparatus when they’re moving around earth. UTS Corporation, run by their CEO/overlord James Sullivan, has built a new home for humanity which orbits earth and sort of mimics the ecosystem but as with most utopic cities, it is only available to the few elite people allowed to ascend. Meanwhile, the rest of Earth are left to suffocate and struggle. The film follows the shenanigans of a group of society known as Space Sweepers… which are kind of like road sweepers but in space. They’re tasked with collecting the space debris that floats in the earth’s orbit and they can then sell it to the company factory so big items are a big deal. The main characters work on the ship ‘The Victory. There’s Kim Tae-ho, Tiger Park, an android and Captain Jang. The backstories of each of these characters is really rich and very different. Tae-ho was a soldier who finds a baby and adopts it (a girl called Su-ni). He turns his back on being a soldier and then is made a non-citizen leaving him and his daughter homeless. This is so reminiscent of the way that a lot of countries treat their soldiers, that once they become useless to the state, they turn their back on them; so this specific backstory emphasises this reality. Anyway, he becomes neglectful and is therefore not paying attention when Su-ni is caught up in a collision between space debris and their sector. Su-ni is violently ejected into space and the government refuse to help find her body because he is considered a non-citizen. Tiger Park used to be a drug baron but has a heart of gold. Bubs was once a soldier bot. Jang was a child genius, but discovers how UTS works and decides to attempt to assassinate Sullivan, nearly dying in the process.

The crew pick up what they think is normal space debris, only to discover a child inside who the authorities are searching for. It is claimed that she contains a weapon of mass destruction created by the terrorist group Black Fox. They find a phone in her bag which they trace to a person willing to pay them two million dollars in exchange for the child. They arrange to meet the person at a nightclub but in the chaos, they lose the child Dorothy (Korean name Kot-nim) and UTS soldiers swarm the area, massacring people at the club (blaming it on the Black Fox group). It becomes obvious that Kot-nim is not just a normal kid and that she has some sort of power to manipulate nanobots and grow plants. The crew disagree about what to do as they attempt to make another exchange attempt. They are ambushed by masked people who reveal themselves to be fellow Space Sweepers working as part of the collective Black Fox which they explain is an environmental group; not a terrorist group. The group explain that the child was born of a disease and in an attempt to save her life, her father injects her with nanobots which gives her this special ability. It is revealed that UTS have been using this child to terraform Mars. that Sullivan plans to kill Dorothy and that this will be cataclysmic for Earth. They decide to work together to save humanity and reunite Kot-nim with her father and are momentarily successful but are then met with UTS soldiers who murder everyone save for the Victory crew and Kot-nim is kidnapped. Initially Tae-ho takes Sullivan’s finders fee but then realises he’s better than that and decides they must save the girl. The crew get to the bomb that Kot-nim is strapped to and free her but realise it cannot be diffused, that the only way to save her and the planet would be to separate the child from the bomb by 5,000 kilometres. Jang calls on all Space Sweepers to help on the emergency frequency. The Sweepers come to their aid and fight the troops. Sullivan intercepts them but they still manage to get away in time, revealing that they did a switcheroo.. That they gave the child to a friend and that instead they had the bomb. There’s a moment where you hear the inner dialogue of Sullivan as he says “Why? I did everything right” before he is destroyed. Kot-nim manages to protect them in the blast using her super cool powers, and the last scenes are of The Victory in the aftermath, Kot-nim happily living amongst the crew and the crew continuing to chase space debris.

So, there’s a lot going on this film and I really don’t even know what to say about it other than I thought it was just an incredible film.

Okay, I do have a lot to say. I have so many feelings.

I don’t want to be reductive but there is something so reminiscent in this film about Star Wars, specifically the ramshackle crew of Han Solo and co, the adventure of the Millennium Falcon. There’s moments in Star Wars where Han Solo is speaking in English, and Chewy in his language and they just get each other, and they move in and out of these dark corners of the universe with exotic creatures and it’s just incredibly mundane and ordinary seeming to watch it, even though it’s obviously like nothing you have ever seen before. I get that same feel when I watched this film. They’re kind of thrown together and everyone’s very different. At times they speak different languages but the Space Sweepers are just trying to survive. They have those jobs that seem really exciting but in this world, they’re considered the lowest rung of society. There’s this moment at the end of the film where the Victory spaceship whooses off after space debris and it brought me back to the whoosh of the millennium falcon. That same feeling of adventure and excitement that was so special it actually made me cry.

The cast are incredibly diverse. The version I watched was the original South Korean audio, with English subtitles, but throughout the film you hear a variety of different languages and accents. Russian. English. Middle Eastern. Spanish. German. And they all understand each other, which I thought was really cool. And then when you see the Black Fox group, that’s also represented by different skin tones and different accents, sometimes broken English/Korean. It’s not some homogenised version of the future like the colony is promising. It’s diversity and difference, coming together for a common cause, and I find that really quite beautiful.

I enjoyed very much the fact that the peripheral characters are so well fleshed out. I find often with blockbuster films that the main characters and their stories/dialogues will be fleshed out, but then all of the peripheral characters are very two-dimensional. A good example of that is in the Alien Prometheus film, and the end result of that is you don’t care about anyone except the main people… but what this fails to realise is that if you invest in more of your character building, that enriches the whole film. Some people see it as a sunken cost and merely a waste of time… but it creates such a rich film, it makes you get behind the story, it makes you invested in the story.. There are so many cool examples of this. For instance, the leader of the Black Fox group is also an accountant(?) for the UTS Corporation. You start off thinking he is a terrible pencil-pusher but he’s basically been working undercover this whole time. Then there’s the android Bubs, who the child instantly recognises is not a boy bot but a girl, and Bubs blushes and confides in her that she has been saving money from their jobs to upgrade and change her physique to one that represents her femininity. It makes her triumph in getting rich so much more endearing. Like at one point before that backstory was fleshed out, I was like why would an android want to be rich, but then you realise it’s for a very ernest reason which approaches the concept of transness in a way that I think both illustrates the feeling of otherness and also tells a story which endearing, and doesn’t use Bubs as just another joke at trans peoples expense.

All of the main crew also have different motivations for why they agree to sacrifice themselves for the child. Captain Jang wants to thwart the corporation and specifically Sullivan. Bubs has that sweet connection with the child where Kot-nim is probably the first and only person to see her as she truly is. I guess similarly Tiger Park is not seen as an object of fear by Kot-nim, where society does view him that way (which UTS plays off of with the propaganda they share with Earth as they scapegoat The Victory). Lastly Tae-ho sees his own daughter in this child, and decides to ‘step-up-to-the-plate’ in a way that he probably feels he was unable to with his own daughter in her final moments. So yeah, they all have different motivations but they ultimately add up to the same moral alignment. And I find it funny that despite the fact that these characters quarrel and fight amongst themselves and squabble after space trash, they still look out for one another. They sacrifice themselves without thinking, knowing that it is a suicide mission and have this deep integrity whereas society would suggest because of the line of work that they are in and their class status, they have no integrity. That they are simply vagrants and losers. If it wasn’t for the story having been leaked on the emergency frequency, you can guarantee that UTS would have spun that story that the explosion out on the edge of the universe was caused by someone else. Maybe even the Sweepers themselves! And then no one would have known about Sullivan’s evil plans. Which makes me wonder if the collision that killed Su-ni was even caused by space debris in the first place. What if there was some other reason and it was blamed on the Space Sweepers not doing their job correctly?

The one question I don’t think was answered properly, and forgive me if I missed this but what the absolute fuck was going on with Sullivan and the bulging veins?! He gave me vibes of white man saviour, like in the game Bioshock Infinite… you know where the guy becomes a prophet and claims to be the answer to humanity’s problems and builds this ‘utopic’ floating city but it turns out he is an absolute dick… Yeah you know the one..

Anyways, there’s so much in this film. It was really a joy to watch. Overall, this film is so exciting and complicated and heartwarming. On the face of it, if you look no further than the surface, it’s an adventurous romp across the universe, but not that far undearth.. a mere scratch below and it highlights af myriad of the current problems that exist in our society now such as class systems, inequality, how profit is reverred above all else, the fact that we are killing our own planet, our uncertain future, the ways in which we treat our most vulnerable… all in a fun and colourful South Korean package. It made me laugh. It made me cry. I adored watching this film and would absolutely watch it a million times over.

Tagged : / / / / / / / / / / / / /

Alphaville [1965]

Do you know what illuminates the night? Poetry.


Alphaville is a 1965 new wave, science fiction, neo noir film which was directed by Jean-Luc Godard. Despite the film having themes of dystopia, it was filmed with no special props or futuristic CGI and you can really feel that. There’s something about it that teeters sometimes between dated and timeless. I can’t put a finger on why, but I suspect the lack of CGI has something to do with it.

So, the protagonist of the film is Lemmy Caution, a secret agent. He’s travelling to a city known as Alphaville posing as a a journalist. He’s trying to find the missing agent, Henri Dixon, and later his objectives change as he tries to capture/kill the creator of Alphaville and destroy the computer than runs the city (called Alpha 60). The main premise of the film is that the city has outlawed free thought, poetry, emotions and love. It is not altogether clear how utopic this doctrine has made the city compared to the outer lands. With a lot of later ‘utopic’ themed films, it is immediately obvious how ruling out such things creates unity in its people… because people seem calm, or their cities are prestine looking, there’s no crime (supposedly) and so on. All of this is important to represent why these things had to be outlawed. However, it wasn’t entirely clear watching this film if the absence of these things actually improve peoples lives. I mean, part of that is probably due to the film being neo noir; the city seems quite grimey. The only real taste that you get of peoples lives being improved is in the shots where Lemmy is in the hotel he is staying at, which is serviced by (I want to say) androids but then it calls into question if peoples lives are really improved, or if it is just men as it comes off quite objectifying to women. Really reminds me of scenes of Soylent Green.

Anyway… back to the premise! People who show any signs of emotion are considered to be acting illogically and are executed through drowning. It seems like this is a sort of sport in this city, as it is observed by a bunch of well-to-do men from a balcony… none of whom seem to flinch at the sight of this.. On his journey, Lemmy meets Natacha von Braun (a programmer of the Alpha 60) who helps him to overthrow the machine. In the process he falls in love with her and apparently the love that he has for her “introduces emotion and unpredictability into the city”. There’s a scene (I watched this some time ago so I might be thinking of the wrong woman, but I think this is the one I am thinking of) where Lemmy is being accosted and von Braun sees this and she sheds a single tear and someone asks her if she is crying and she’s like NO I’M NOT BECAUSE I’M NOT ALLOWED TO BE… At the time I was thinking she has a lot of feels for him, and she’s not hiding this very well.. Anyways more on that later. So they manage to destroy the machine by telling it a riddle it cannot understand and Lemmy sweeps von Braun off her feet and drives her out of the city. The last scene is of them driving into the sunset.

So, I found this film very strange. I know it has a cult following, and is regarded very highly and I think that has something to do with it being before its time with this concept. It was probably one of the first films that looked at dystopic/utopic cities. Most of the better-put-together films of that genre, in my mind, come a bit later from the 70s onards; so this film probably had a great legacy. However, there were in my mind a lot of moments which felt dated or too over-the-top, but I guess it first came out nearly 60 years ago so I can’t be too hard on it…

Firstly, the scene I mentioned above where von Braun is hiding her true emotion was so transparent, and was done in front of the enforcers of this city so it didn’t seem realistic that she would not be found out… Like if people are living in fear of being emotional or letting on that they are reading poetry or any literature, the way that they would be acting would be very subtle, or they would be displaying real fear at the idea of being caught (or perhaps even excitement… none of which can be seen in this film). Quite probably this film is influenced by George Orwell’s 1984 (published in 1949) and the way the protagonist acted in that book when he thought that he was being watched was very different to how he acted when he wasn’t, because his life was at stake if he didn’t. I didn’t feel that from these characters in Alphaville, despite the very real and very violent threat of execution.

There are several shots throughout the film which flash up E=mc2 and other equations. Supposedly they are shown to display the scientism that underpins Alphaville, but it seems like a strange way of illustrating that.

Overall, I thought the way Lemmy interacted with women was very dated, and I think this is something that a lot of science fiction films of that sort of era (pre-1980s) struggle with. That even though the film is set in a futuristic time, the writer/author is stuck in a mindset that is very old-fashioned and you can see that in the work. It therefore came off as quite dated.

So all in all, I really struggled to take this film seriously, or suspend my disbelief that this was a real thing that was happening. I have seen quite a few films of this topic before I came round to this one. Perhaps if I had seen this earlier, I might have a different perspective. I can certainly see how influential a film it has been. Enjoyed the neo-noir shots. Personally disliked the characters but I put that down to the dated interactions between the protagonist and the women in the film. Overall enjoyed watching a slice of history, but not one of my faves of the genre.

Tagged : / / / / / /

Scent of a Forest [2021] [sci-fi-london.com]

**smells orb**


No quote this time so you’ll have to make do with a descriptive intro haha

Voted this year’s sci-fi-london.com film festival ‘short film’ favourite, I was really stoked that the fest decided to pair this film on Saturday evening alongside their final feature of the day (I’ll put my review up for the feature separately). I’ve not had a chance to see any of the shorts in person due to my work schedule this year. Thankfully, through the power of technology, Sci Fi London will be sharing their 2021 short film selection online from 27th October until 31st. You can get a pass here for only £12. I’m gonna be doing the same and will share some short reviews on this site for those films.

Okay, back to Scent of a Forest!

This film was directed by Servaes Dewispelaere and was his BA degree project, which is really impressive and I’m looking forward to seeing what he makes in future. It centres on a young woman called Ana, played by Eliza Stuyck, who works in a scent shop. It’s clear that in this dystopian world, the natural worldly things that we take for granted like trees, forests, beaches and so on are all gone. It’s never explained what has happened and the director didn’t explain their interpretation about this in the Q&A either, but it could be some sort of ecological disaster or perhaps nuclear fallout. Regardless, people appear to be dosing themselves with a golden orb drug which when broken, emits a scent of various things which no longer exist in this time. The only catch is that to buy this little orb, you need to sell your soul.

Ana and her boyfriend Peter, played by Luca Persan, talk about the drug. Peter brings Ana to his mother to show him the effects of the drug. Peter’s mother is almost comatose and is seen spooning water into her mouth like it is soup, but comes alive with dance when she inhales the drug in front of them. Peter and Ana are seen staring at the ensuing dance in a series of artistic shots. I particularly liked the shot of Peter seen watching his mother through a mirror reflection. Ana then admits to Peter that she sold her soul months back in order to have the drug. The final scene shows Peter buying the drug, sold to him by Ana who responds to him coldly, and it cuts to birdsong for the credits.

This is a really beautifully done short. It’s pretty unusual for me to get caught up in shorts, typically, but this one really pulled me in. It’s a great concept and not one many directors tend to tackle because obviously conveying scent in film is hard. What I liked about the way this director did it is that the prolonged effects of using this drug totally ravaged the body, so the stark difference between pre-smell to post-smell was visually obvious in that these people went from being non-respondent to dancing rhythmically, and the dances were as unique as we all are. For instance when Peter’s mum dances, it’s quite a manic style I guess, whereas Ana’s dance is more graceful. Obviously this drug, whatever it is, helps these people get through the days so they don’t really care that they sold their souls to get it. It seems that reality is an ugly place it exist in, in this dystopia.

The living quarters of Peter’s mum, which seemed to be an underground bunker and the dark/underground vibe that the film gave off implied, at least to me, that there had been nuclear fallout. Maybe all the forests burned down. I don’t remember there being any sunlight but maybe that’s just the impression I got; but definitely most of the filming if not all was either inside or in darkness. And with the end credits rolling the way they did with the birdsong, it had a strange effect on me as the viewer in that I could almost smell the forest as I expect Peter did. There’s something about certain cues as far as sounds go that can transport you to certain smells and visa versa, so this was a really cool device.

So all in all, excellent short. Not surprised it was voted the best short of the fest. Really looking forward to seeing more from Dewispelaere.

Tagged : / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /

Real Genius [1985]

“Well, gentlemen, now what? Things are going okay so far, aren’t they?”


This is another one of those films that I watched MONTHS ago and didn’t have the capacity to blog about at the time, so here goes NOTHINK!

This sci-fi comedy film, directed by Martha Coolidge, stars Val Kilmer and Gabriel Jarret. It’s about a bunch of nerd-bros at a science and engineering university. Kilmer’s character Chris Knight is working on a science project for his degree which involves LASERSSSSSS but little does he know that his professor has been covertly working with the CIA to develop that project into a weapon. Not only that but one which would allow them to do nefarious things FROM SPACE!!! Chris is roomed with a bright, young high school student called Mitch who he shows the ropes to, which seems to involve bullying him (I guess it was a different time eh…?), a lot of partays and foam and drinking and getting up to no good. And then there’s a mysterious character who keeps disappearing into their wardrobe which makes it like some weird version of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Basically it all comes down to this final project which goes through twists and turns involving sabotage by a fellow student interspersed with some 80s tunes and montages. Eventually Chris nails the design which pleases his professor who then steals the laser. Chris learns about the true nature of the task too late and realises the laser is gone! There’s a weird, goofy bit where they put a radio transmitter into the mouth of their fellow student to learn more about this plot to get the location of an air force base. They reprogram the machine so the laser points to a prism which ends up exploding a bunch of popcorn in the professors home. SUCCESS! **jumps mid-air with a fist punched to the air so you know it’s a REAL success, one fit for a REAL genius! HUZZAH! ETC!**

So… what an odd film. I don’t have too much to say about it; it’s not a complex film, and I don’t have complex feelings about it.

I watched this with my Plex Film Club buddies. I’ve probably mentioned them before. HEY BUDS!

This is exactly the kind of film you need to watch with friends because it is so so so goofy that if you watch it alone, you won’t make it to the end.

It’s typical of a lot of the more corny 80s science fiction in that it follows the same sort of formula. There’s a humorous, ‘dashing’ lead who outsmarts them all with just a few montages set to a synthy soundtrack. Somewhere in the mix is a foe, a bunch of loyal friends, one girl or woman to act as the romantic storyline and in the end the lead + pals always win, and the foe is ridiculed. HOW THEY LAUGH HO HO HO. I think if I hadn’t seen so many films that follow this same formula, I would be more enthusiastic about it, but I think it was missing something for me. I guess I am comparing it to other similar sciencey protagonist storyline films of its time like WarGames which ended up way more entertaining and which I hold in higher regard. Also I would say I’ve seen Val Kilmer – in my eyes – at his best later on in his career through Willow and even Batman, so for lots of reasons this film feels pretty juvenile. But I guess what can you expect from a film labelling itself REAL GENIUS. Say the title as if you are Trevor Noah mimicking Donald Trump. I dare you. That pretty much sums up how I feel about the film.

Overall, it was enjoyable and one to watch with the lads. Fun, 80s white Americana nostalgia if you like that sorta thing, but nothing really to write home about and it hasn’t stood the test of time for me. Soz.

Tagged : / / / / / / / / / / /

Devs [TV] [2020]

“The box contains us. The box contains everything. And inside the box, is another box.”


Oh man. I usually write these little posts straight after I finish a film or TV show but life has been a little strange of late so I hadn’t had the chance. Therefore my memory of the comings and going of this show are a little hazy but here goes…

This show centres around a high tech department (DEVs) of a company called Amaya, run by Nick Offerman’s character named Forest. Forest has various ‘disciples’ who, it would appear, would do almost anything to protect Forest and the company, and you quickly learn that Amaya seems to operate ‘above the law’ helped by a close relationship with the government. Though he won’t admit it, much of the impetus behind Forest’s vision for Amaya is to turn back time and absolve himself of a terrible tragedy which took the lives of his wife and child.

There are going to be big SPOILERS from now on so look awayyyy.

.

..

….

..

.

Okay, so with that in mind, the story begins with a character called Sergei who is a bright coder with great potential. He is dating a woman called Lily who is a fellow engineer at the same company. Sergei is invited to progress to the DEVs department but on his first day attempts to steal information, which triggers a MASSIVE chain of events starting with his death and affecting a great many people. Lily attempts to uncover the truth with the help, weirdly, of her jilted ex-partner, all while being pursued by Kenton – Forest’s very own version of Odd Job – trained in cleaning up aka murdering problematic people.

There’s also a sub-plot in there involving Russian spies, a very cute worker-friendship between Stewart and Langdon, a tense romantic energy between Forest and Katie (his chief engineer) and as the story goes we uncover more and more about what this extraordinary machine in their department can do… which as it turns out is a mix between televising (to an nth degree of certainty) the past or potentially representing a multi-verse of potential outcomes… it’s not entirely clear, but it is clear that it is extraordinary!

I was also super excited to see a character I perceived as trans or potentially non binary in the show through character Langdon, only to find out that this was not the intention. In addition, the actor was in fact a cis women so was a little confusing about this choice but apparently Garland just wanted to cast a cis gendered woman in that role and it’s as simple as that. Very happy to see Janet Mock playing the senator in this show though <3

What’s so intriguing to me about this show is how it is largely about death. There’s something hopeful about the way that the Amaya engineers are looking to this machine and it’s possibilities but the series starts with death and ends with death, and death is peppered throughout. It’s in both super violent, brutal and dark ways, in schrodinger’s cat take-a-chance sort of ways and then also more matter-of-factly (like here is a dead mouse… it is dead…) scientific representation of death. But even though it is dark, I never came away from watching it feeling put off by the amount of death there was. And I think that is a testiment to how exciting and novel the show turned out to be. Also, having recently read the book ‘The Space Between Worlds’ by Micaiah Johnson which also explores multiverses and the infinitesimal choices in our lives that make massive impacts on the people we turn out to be, it was super interesting to see an alternative viewpoint on this theme so soon after. It’s kind of mindblowing when you think how your life could have changed if you took a different bus one day, or if your parents had not met or things like that. I have been thinking about this quite a lot lately since reading Kindred by Octavia E Butler as well, in light of my own families struggle for survival on both the maternal and paternal side. What if my maternal ancestors had been slaughtered by the Ottoman Empire and not made it to safety on my mum’s side? What if my Chinese grandad never made it on the boat to the Caribbean? What if my great great grandad was murdered by his enslaver or died on the boat over from Africa, or my great great grandmothers line had been wiped out when the English and French colonists murdered her tribe. It boggles my mind how precious life is, and how rare and lucky we all are to be here today and read these silly words about some TV show! haha

Anyways, enough of the deep stuff.

I know Garland has a reputation for being a bit pretentious and I can see some thinking it’s a bit too slow or a bit much or a bit flat or monochrome, but I really enjoyed this show. It was heartbreaking, captivating and at times really beautiful. Not to mention the soundtrack. I joke about the making of the soundscape on my insta/tiktok, but there is something to be said about having a film director produce a TV show, and the results are similar to that of The Mandalorian which had the same dealio, in that it creates epic, cinematic TV shows. Not saying I liked it as much as Mando tho. haha

So in all, really enjoyable show. Well done. Exciting. Very sexy lighting and look to the show. Really confused about the comments from viewers calling it an indulgent show tbh. ALL OF FILM AND TV IS INDULGENT. IT’S A CHEEKY BONUS! IT’S NOT NECESSARY FOR SURVIVAL, OF COURSE IT IS INDULGENT! IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT, NO ONE IS FORCING YOU TO CONTINUE WATCHING APART FROM YOURSELFFFFFF. Unless there is a ‘Clockwork Orange’ thing going on here… in which case I’m sorry, but there’s worse shows to be forced to watch. I can think of a few at least (**COUGH** Replicas **COUGH**) Anyways, well worth a watch.

Tagged : / / / / / / / / /

The Room [2019]

“The only thing more dangerous than a man who can’t get what he wants, is a man who can get whatever he wants.”


Not to be confused with one of the worst films of all time with the same name, The Room, directed by Christian Volckman, follows Matt and Kate as they embark on the exciting new venture of HOMEOWNING. Matt is some sort of artist which seems pretty irrelevant tbh and they talk about how he’s gonna make a shit-tonne of money one day so she can stay at home. Which she kinda does anyway… Anyways, back to the plot! They move into a massive, old manor and as they are decorating realise that they have a strange room in there that appears to give you everything you wish. So they go on a bit of a bender before realising that the thing they truly wish for is the one thing they can’t have… a baby. Before long they realise that nothing created in ‘The Room’ can survive outside; that there is some sort of mystic power that exists only in the house. Matt, meanwhile, seeks to find answers from someone called John Doe, the previous occupant of the house who reportedly murdered his parents who tells him that in order to live, his parents had to die (suggesting that anything made in the room has to kill its creators in order to live) like some sort of ultimate sacrifice.

Kate wishes for a baby and starts to care for it like her own, calling it Shane. Over time we see the child grow older, completely cut off from the world. They tell Shane that he cannot go outside because it’s not safe to do so. Tensions grow stronger over time and in one moment of rage, Shane manages to get outside and ages rapidly and painfully.

Soon the kid learns about the room and intentionally ages himself into the body of man (whilst still having the mind of a child). He fights Matt and knocks both parents out before taking on the guise of Matt, pretending that the child had in fact died in combat. Then ensues a long scene of the real Matt trying to find Kate, and both of them running through a labyrinth of houses being chased by Shane, all within The Room. Eventually, they manage to beat the kiddo and make it out alive.

Or do they?

I found this film fairly enjoyable. I thought it was a pretty decent film and a good premise, quite tense, helped by the growing tensions of these three characters locked away in a small space.

I enjoyed that once Matt and Kate had worn out the novelty of the room and the capitalist desires they initially had, that they turned to more wholesome desires. Just goes to show how quickly that sort of meaninglessness can burn.

There’s one scene where Shane(?) is trying to get into the door – Matt has removed the key and locked it away – and he breaks down the panels next to the door and crawls through tree roots, which it turns out are intertwined throughout the house. Something about that scene, and the look of the door to the room, how Matt initially finds it and the key itself really reminded me of this 2010 horror/thriller ‘Don’t be afraid of the dark’ starring Katie Holmes. In fact, in that film, Katie and her family move into an old manor. There’s vines and shrubbery everywhere. They tear down a wall hiding THE SCARY DOOR to a room not with wishes, but instead spooky toothfairies… so quite a different film but it had very much the same feel to it, aka secret door thriller. There’s something about that old adage, ‘curiosity killed the cat’, in these types of films. You see the characters punished for their curiosity by opening the door that obviously shouldn’t be opened… it’s literally the oldest story in the book, you know the one where Eve was told not to eat the apple and she did, and then Adam and Eve were banished from heaven… or when Pandora opens the box she’s told not to open and unleashes all the evils unto the world. It’s a strange trope to keep repeating in horror or thriller films because humans are curious by nature, and our curiosity literally invented the wheel and other cool shit, so to repeatedly punish ourselves through these films is pretty humorous to me.

I liked the twist at the end, though I gotta say I saw it coming and I wish it was a little more subtle than it played out. Lots of directors are following in Christopher Nolan’s shoes, post-Inception, which really set the/a bar in terms of how thrillers should be. It feels like in the last 10 years I’ve seen a lot of thrillers which hamfisted their way through endings with a OR IS IT moment, which could have been way. more. subtle. I really enjoy the ones that get it right, because they get me thinking a lot more, or reading into moments questioning what I think I saw a lot more. This was not one of those films… it was more like IS IT? YES IT IS. No questions. TBH I completely forgot I watched this film within about four days of having watched it, so even though overall I enjoyed it, and I enjoyed it whilst I was watching it, it became pretty forgettable.

Overall, enjoyable film but pretty formulaic. I read someone review this as an act of genius, but perhaps they were watching a different film, because that’s not the impression I got. Still worth a watch, but take it with a pinch of salt!

Tagged : / / / / / / / / / / /

Behind her eyes [TV] [2021]

“Everyone has secrets…”


This show turned up on my Netflix account recently and not knowing anything about it, my partner and I thought we would give it a try. It seemed to really tick my partner’s box in terms of type of shows she tends to watch whereas for me, I prefer sci-fi (obvs) but we gave it a watch and the show was really surprising. There are big spoilers in this post so YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

The show started out with a sexy liaison between Louise and David who meet by chance in a bar when Louise’s friend stands her up. Their chemistry is palpable and they share – DUN DUN DUHHH – a kiss before David calls it off and leaves abruptly. The next day Louise goes into work and realises that David is – DUN DUN DUAHHHHHH – her new boss! And he’s – DUN DUN DAHHHHHHHHHHHH – married! They agree to move past it but obviously it keeps happening over and over again and turns into a full blown affair. Meanwhile, there’s a parallel story about David’s wife Adele which paints David in this controlling light. Adele has no control over her own life which David sees to, calling her multiple times a day to check in on her and prescribing her heavy medication. Adele intentionally runs into Louise and befriends her, thus beginning a very weird love triangle where both Adele and David are hiding the fact they are friends with or seeing Louise, and Louise is also omitting this to both. Adele appears to be both vulnerable and mentally unstable and it’s hard to know what’s really happening. I feel like the story tries to force to you to question morality because of all these different scenarios that present themselves paint the main characters in this polarised way, but all the characters in this show are so flawed. The ex boyf, the best friend, David, Adele, Louise. The only pure character is Louise’s son who was the most adorable little boy <3

As the story unfolds, you see more and more pieces in this puzzle. We learn that Adele was in a mental institution, that her parents died in mysterious circumstances leaving her a massive mansion and grounds, that David was suspected of having something to do with their murder as he rescues her from this fire that has killed them. And then there’s this character Rob who you’re really not sure how he fits into it. He meets Adele in the mental institution and talks of Adele being like his escapism so when she is released from the hospital and invites him to the mansion, he jumps at the chance.

And then stuff starts getting REALLY REALLY weird out of the blue. It turns out that Adele has this supernatural ability to leave her body and go on adventures. She confides this in Rob who she has been coaching all along. Similarly in present day timeline, she clandestinely teaches Louise how to do this and gradually Louise pieces together that Adele knows about her and David because she has been watching them this whole time using her weird powers and that she might be dangerous.

We find out that David helped Adele cover up the death of Rob which David eventually owns up to Louise and goes to the police. Then right at the end, Louise realises that Adele is trying to take her life. Louise uses the paranormal abilities to jump into Adele’s body hoping to save her only to discover it’s a trap and Adele is definitely not who we think she is.

I really thought this was just going to be another sexy show about two cheating adults who can’t get enough of each other and the more I watched, the more it unfurled into this fantastical, paranormal thriller. I thought it was a pretty inventive storyline with a nice twisty ending, but then I didn’t like how polar the story was trying to paint the actions of the characters. Additionally, I really didn’t like how much they used old tropes in TV and film, like the ‘crazy wife’ or the ‘sexually promiscuous secretary’ or the ‘sexually promiscuous POC’ in fact! Even the cold and abusive way that David was acting in this, the storyline turned it around as if he was only acting that way because he was scared, poor him. He was only controlling his wife and cheating on her and cutting her off from the outside world because he was scared, which I don’t really buy. There’s this one scene where he’s like ‘thank you, you saved me, I’m going to march right to the police’ and he just walks off into Kings Cross station through open barriers and I half expected him to just disappear and never return. TBH I felt like they let him off really too easily given that he covered up what turned out to be a murder. He would have been an accessory if this were real, but instead he and ‘Louise’ lived happily ever after………

That said, I did enjoy watching the show. It was pretty entertaining and such a messy drama with such broken characters. The relationship between David and Louise is so sexy that it’s easy to get drawn into. I think more could have been done to develop the main characters so that they could be more nuanced, more colourful but I liked the Stepford wife gone wrong vibe and the twist. Additionally both performance from Louise and Adele were stellar. The paranormal aspect felt a bit tacked on; it hid under a nightmare remedy guise and I wish more had been made of it to show the impact of it on David and Adele’s relationship. For instance, David talks late in the series about how Adele appears to ‘know things she shouldn’t’ but earlier on when Louise and David are cheating, he doesn’t seem to mind or worry about that which seems inconsistent. In any case, enjoyable and spooky series and like Sharronda from ‘Pay or Wait’ says, Louise should have minded her own BIZNEZ! I’m glad I watched it.

Tagged : / / / / / / / / / /

Ch-Ch-CHANGES!

Hai, what’s new with you?! SOPHFIFEST.com has some new changes. Check them out 🙂


EVENTS

Events have moved from FACEBOOK.com and are now at MEETUP.com! Users can get easy notifications about upcoming events and join in on discussions there. I’ve re-jigged the website to streamline this change.

Check out the event pages here which will take you through to MEETUP.com

THE WATCHERS

THE READERS


SHOP

Like SOPHFIFEST’s logo? Like t-shirts, hats or hoodies? Want to support DIY movements?

SOPHFIFEST’s shop is coming in February in partnership with Printful.com. All profits made on orders will go straight back into running SOPHFIFEST.com events!

Countdown below!!! So excite!!!

2021-02-01T10:00:00

  days

  hours  minutes  seconds

until

SHOP OPENING!

Tagged : / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension [1984]

“Sealed with a curse as sharp as a knife. Doomed is your soul and damned is your life.”


Thanks to Sam for hosting this watch party! This was on my watchlist and I was so happy to watch it with the gang, finally!

Buckaroo Banzai, directed by W.D. Richter, features a star studded cast of Peter Weller, John Lithgow, Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Lloyd, Vincent Schiavelli, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jonathan Banks and much, much more! The story follows Buckaroo Banzai, “an adventurer, brain surgeon, rock musician” and his band of merry men, the Hong Kong Cavaliers, as they dash to protect the planet from a bunch of evil aliens looking to take over the world!

Hmm what can I say about this film? Well… Dr Hikita and Buckaroo are trying to perfect a machine (called an oscillation overthruster) which will allow people to pass through solid matter. Buckaroo drives the machine in his car and ends up in the 8th dimension. He finds something under the car which seems to be an alien creature. Meanwhile, learning about their tech successes, Dr Lizardo (a scientist who had ALSO attempted to create the same machine, and was in an insane asylum) decided to break out. Apparently in creating the same machine he had found himself in the 8th dimension as well, was attacked by aliens, and his body was taken over by an evil alien. There’s a bit where a messenger called John with a Caribbean accent comes to Buckaroo and crew and lets them know that he is from one group of aliens called the Black Lectroids that has been at odds with another evil group of aliens called the Red Lectroids, and it seems like earth is about to get caught in the crossfire. Also a bit in there where Buckaroo gets electrified and can see the aliens in their true form, a bit where he finds a love interest in a bar, some slug torture, Banzai tries to kiss an unconscious woman and he gets immediately and painfully electric shocked (honestly served him right) and then at some point, the film finishes and the gang do a catwalk past a sign saying Buckaroo Banzai and it rolls to credits…

There’s a lot to unpack there, but mostly one big question… What the hell did I just watch? This film has a big cult following and is a lot of fun, but it’s a very silly film. There’s a lot going on, and also nothing going on. I believe one critic called it “unintelligible” which I would have to agree with, because it was pretty hard to follow. It seems like the writer(s) threw everything they had at this film and that Peter Weller and friends were just having a fun old time in front of a camera; meanwhile John Lithgow goes through a whole gambit of European accents, never really landing on the one he is attempting to nail (Italian).

Parts of the film gave off the same vibe I felt when I watched ‘American Astronaut’, which was this grease-monkeys feel. Though I thought that AA was excellent, whereas this film went on a weird journey that was all over the place.

Also, how can a film have that many stars and yet feel so low budget?! In one scene, the characters put ‘glasses’ which were clearly made of bubble wrap, supposedly to protect their eyes or help them see an alien. It’s unclear why. At one point all the scientists were wearing glasses to illustrate how smart they were, and then later abandoned that idea apparently. There was a moment at the end where – after the characters strutted past in slow-mo – the camera pans to the Buckaroo Banzai sign and I said “nothing says high budget film like gaffa”. You could clearly see a K on the brick wall, showing where the makers had attempted the sign prior lol. There was this level of pride they seemed to have in the film at that point, like they were collectively saying “nailed it” as they walked away. Did they nail it? Well that’s up for debate!

So all in all, great cast. Very fun, weird film. Probably the most diverse 80s film I’ve ever seen, including lots of ace Black and Asian peeps <3 though only one woman… who ended up only being the romantic element of the film. There was literally a scene where she is kissed by Buckaroo into consciousness, like some sort of sleeping beauty. It’s one of those films you need to watch with pals for maximum banter. I’m really glad I watched it with a group because it made it a lot of fun. Don’t watch it after taking drugs because you will trip out. You have been warned. I’m usually a big fan of weird, but even this was a bit too weird for me but maybe I need to watch it again. Jeff Goldblum in every scene was probably the highlight. Particularly dressed up as a cowboy in the end.

Tagged : / / / / / / / / / /

See you yesterday [2019]

“Aren’t you too old to be playing with toys?”


I watched this as part of the WATCHERS club in December and it has taken me so long to process how great this film is!

Produced by Spike Lee and directed by Stefon Bristol, this 2019 film follows science geniuses CJ Walker and her best friend Sebastian as they prepare for a technology expo. They’re trying to crack the key to temporal relocation or TIME TIME TIME TRAVEL TRAVEL TRAVELLLL. Then one terrible day, CJ’s big brother Calvin and his friend are leaving a party when two local kids who robbed a store run past them. The police mistake Calvin and friend for the thieves. Though not shown initially, we discover that Calvin is shot by them when he takes out his phone attempting to video the police as they brutality attack his friend. Grief-stricken, CJ throws herself into her work, thinking that she can save her brother. She and Sebastian fixes the tech and successfully jumps back a day, but there’s a catch. The wormhole is only open for a short time and she and her bestie have to get back to it before it closes. They jump and try to save her brother, but every time they do, they have limited time before the wormhole closes and changing the past causes unintended consequences.

I thought this was an incredible film. Whilst it is science fiction, that felt almost secondary to the social aspect of the film. I pre-judged the film from the poster. I didn’t know anything about it other than knowing it was about time travel and I mistook the film to be light-hearted. Boy was I wrong. The colourful and youthful poster made me think that it would be a childlike jaunt and I guess a part of me thought as I watched it that seeing as it focused on the future, maybe the future would be kinder to CJ and her family as they jumped further into the future but it just got harder and harder for them. I feel like the adult-type theme definitely speaks to current reality in USA. African American children are taught from a very young age that they need to be extra careful because racism is systemic. It’s so all encompassing that it is impossible to unpick it from positions of power like police, so African American parents teach their kinds from a young age what they need to do to stay alive. I don’t know about you, but my parents never had to warn me about the dangers of walking down the street, jogging or opening the door to my own house. African American children are not afforded the same right to a peaceful, innocent childhood like white people are. This film served as a poignant reminder of that and it was absurdly well done.

Really great soundtrack of BIPOC music of all different genres. I particularly loved the science montage to reggae. That was ACE.

Excellent cameo game from a certain someone (“Great Scott!”) It really felt like he was passing the torch to the next generation of time travel nerds.

So all in all, See you yesterday is a super vibrant and colourful film that you just never see the darkness coming but it is there everywhere, and it takes you like a kick to the chest. I loved that the film didn’t paint a Black mono culture. It showed how utterly diverse Black people are; the dialects, the food, the music`, the personalities, the histories, the heritage! Absolutely excellent film and really well done. I can tell this is going to be one that I will watch over and over and over.

Go watch it, yesterday,

Tagged : / / / / / / / / / / / / / /

I am Ren [2020, SciFi London 2020]

“They want you to think you did it…”


Directed by Piotr Ryczko, this film follows Ren (Renata), mother to Kam and wife to Jan. As a family, they seem like the image of contentedness and perfection until one day Jan comes home to a house in complete disarray and Kam and Ren in a state of despair and shock. Ren is bruised all over her body as is Kam, and she has intrusive memories of two men she doesn’t know observing her. Whilst recovering, she overhears her husband talking to two men that she has malfunctioned and that she should be packed up and thrown away. Ren is taken to a psychiatrist who asks her what has happened and she tells him that she is REN, an android and that it is an error. Her memory is fractured and she is unable to remember what went on that day. A woman called Ela tells her “humans might have some memory loss, but not you” and asks her if she can run a diagnostic and access her memories with a special key to find out what has happened, further insinuating that Ren’s husband cannot be trusted. Ren goes to her son Kam to find answers saying she believes she has been with him for only three years, but he shows her pictures which contradicts this belief.

Later, Ela accesses her memories and Ren sees the father Jan beating the child and talks Kam into running away with her. To prevent capture, she jumps into a frozen lake but is caught and has to remain for further psychiatric care. Whilst in care, she sees an advert for REN androids that ends up being about a toy and her belief structure begins to fall apart. The film ends on her seeing her family but there is someone with them. DUN DUN DAHHHHHH!!!

Wow what can I say. I thought this was a well made film, and what a great film to close the festival with. I know I’m going to be thinking about it for some time to come, because the ending was really ambiguous. I’m not sure which parts of what I saw was actually real. You could view it as a film about mental health and the ending is about a broken women seeing what her mind is projecting or she really was a REN android, and the unit she was taken to was for broken androids or they’d be turned into parts eventually. I like that ambiguity of the whole film. Particularly because the person REN befriends (Ela) feeds into her and my own (as the viewer) paranoia.

I don’t remember much of a soundtrack so I think it was pretty low key, and the visuals were kept pretty normal with quite monochrome and dull colours in the cinematography and costuming. So it’s really all about the story. The lake scene where you see her in the water after she has jumped in looks pretty rad. It’s quite an iconic looking scene. They hold her there for a while to savour the moment of her sinking.

So all in all, top film. Really enjoyed it. Nice concept and twists. I don’t know what to believe happened, even now. Nothing super flashy about the cinematography, but it was a well written story I thought. Go watch it.

Thanks SciFi London 2020 for putting these feature and short films up. I’ve got a few more short film reviews to share, but I’ve had such a ball watching all of these stories. The bar has been very high this year and I cannot wait for 2021. I liked having a virtual viewing just because I’m quite a home-body and I like writing/typing my thoughts as I go, which you can’t do in a real cinema, so I hope you have a virtual offering for future fests (thank you plz plz plz)! See you next year!

Tagged : / / / / / / / / / / / /

Replicas [2018]

“What if something horrible goes wrong?”

“Something already has…”


There aren’t many actors where I would watch anything they do regardless of what the negative reviews say of one of their films… but Keanu Reeves is one of them for me. The ratings on this film were startlingly bad but I decided to push through, because Keanu…

This is an age old story. Boy meets girl. They fall in love. Start a family. Boy creates technology that can transfer memories onto an android…. You know, classic… Well it is classic in science fiction! It’s that question that sci-fi often asks: Could humans live forever? If brain activity is just electricity firing in our brains, can we transfer that? Store it on a data chip? Synthesise neurotransmitters and the like? Or would we lose something in the process? Our soul perhaps? What even is a soul? This film’s existence poses those questions, but not in a very thorough way.

Really it’s a stereotypical ‘crazy scientist’ gets in over his own head bit. Keanu’s human experiments have all failed, but when tragedy befalls him he decides to try one more time, because he’s GOT A GOOD FEELING ABOUT THIS ONE. Unsurprisingly, the subjects who are the guinea pigs in this attempt are not consenting and have verbally opposed his tinkering prior, so what he ends up doing is extremely unethical, and then it becomes a fight to survive…

There’s a lot in this film that doesn’t make sense. SPOILERS! Firstly, his life’s work is based around human to android transfer, but following the tragedy he decides to grow human clones in tanks of fluid and transfer their memories that way. Why would they have bothered using cadavers and building complex androids in all experiments prior rather than just growing humans in the first place if that were possible the whole time? Wait a second? Whatttt?

There’s one part where someone who disappeared early in the film, and is mourned for having done so, turns up and you’re like HOW IS THIS ACTUALLY POSSIBLE. It’s not. Keanu made sure of that. So why the 180 degree shift? There are loads of these WHO WHAT HOW questions, with plot holes that make no sense.

There was a nice little easter egg in the form of a sneaky Kurios picture in the background of one of the scenes. Kurios was a scientist (called The Seeker) who believed there was an “invisible world in his larger-than-life cabinet full of crazy ideas and grand dreams”. Sounds a lot like Keanu’s character in this film, eh.

All in all, I think that this was an experiment better left alone. Decent CGI but the massive plot holes and a confused storyline really left this film in the mud. Even Keanu couldn’t pull this film into life. Would not recommend..

Tagged : / / / / / / /