Prospect (2018)

Day: January 18th, Movie: 18

Pedro Pascal is hot right now. Not only is he about to appear in the third season in The Mandalorian, but he is starring in HBO Max’s new video game drama, The Last of Us. Tonight, I watched Prospect, a sci-fi film on Hulu, for the Genre-ary Sci-Fi DailyView.

According the IMDB, “A teenage girl (Sophie Thatcher) and her father (Jay Duplass) travel to a remote alien moon, aiming to strike it rich. They’ve secured a contract to harvest a large deposit of the elusive gems hidden in the depths of the moon’s toxic forest. But there are others roving the wilderness and the job quickly devolves into a fight to survive. Forced to contend not only with the forest’s other ruthless inhabitants, but with her own father’s greed-addled judgment, the girl finds she must carve her own path to escape.”

There are some interesting moments between Sophie Thatcher and Pedro Pascal. The interactions with these two characters are one of the stronger aspects of the movie. Admittedly, their relationship was a little unwieldly to start with considering the circumstances. The partnership of necessity felt a little rushed, though it also provided us with some solid work,

The science fiction parts of the film worked well and I did like the fact that the typical alien lifeforms were kept to a minimum. When Pedro Pascal joined the film, things picked up drastically. The initial scene with Pascal and Duplass was fire and led to a situation where Thatcher had to work with Pascal.

Pascal with a younger character, almost the young cub mentality, seems to be one of his specialties.

There was one particularly brutal scene about midway through the film that was unexpected and was difficult to think about as I watched it. There was a THUD at the end of the scene that was especially troublesome.

However, I thought the choice of these characters having to wear these spacesuits, including the large helmets, was not the best choice. All we got was heavy breathing in them and they prevented some facial reactions. I understand the choice, but I would think that the film could have had a planet that had breathable oxygen just for the sake of the drama.

Prospect was fine. I loved Pedro Pascal, who seems to always be a special performer, and Sophie Thatcher was decent. The story may have been a touch slow and yet progressed quickly. I enjoyed watching this enough, but I probably will not remember much about it down the road.

Barbarella (1968)

Day: January 17th, Movie: 17

You’ve got to be kidding me.

When I was searching for possible sci-fi films, I came across Barbarella. I looked at Rotten Tomatoes scores to see if the films were worth watching. This had a 74% so I thought the odds of it being worthwhile increased.

You’ve got to be kidding me.

Barbarella started off with Jane Fonda floating around as if in zero gravity, slowly doing a striptease as words floated around her body to cover her nudity (at least partially). From that point on, I knew what kind of film this was going to be.

I could not believe that this was Jane Fonda. She was beautiful, no doubt, but Barbarella was not what I had expected. Full of sex and exotica, Barbarella was not the feminist hero that I thought she might. Barbarella was in traps and dangers constantly and required plenty of rescue.

Barbarella was sent by the Earth’s president to retrieve Durand Durand (Milo O’Shea) from the Tau Ceti planetary system. She then spends the film in all sorts of compromising situations, with all sort of people, including a blind angel Pygar (John Phillip Law) that does not make love, but is love..

Marcel Marceau was here too, playing Professor Ping.

I’m not sure that I have seen a film more campy than this one. It was like a weird, psychedelic dream (particularly a dream that might be had by a teen boy).

This is another film that I would pay good money to see the RiffTrax crew riff on. It is utterly ridiculous.

The soundtrack was fun and the costuming was actually pretty good. Even the special effects for 1968 are not bad. However, the story and characters are thin and lacking any real cohesiveness to them. It is fun at times. Stupid, stupid fun.

Barbarella seemingly has inspired countless of people. It is considered a cult film, which in this case means a bad one. It reminded me of films like The Room or Manos: Hands of Fate in its badness. Those might be considered cult films too.

The Andromeda Strain (1971)

Day: January 16th, Movie: 16

Movies dealing with potential outbreaks are very relevant these days, perhaps too relevant considering what the world has gone through over the last few years. However, space outbreaks are a whole different thing. The Andromeda Strain from 1971, based on a Michael Crichton novel, makes the sci-fi element of this potential outbreak feel very real world.

According to IMDB, “A team of top scientists work feverishly in a secret, state-of-the-art laboratory to discover what has killed the citizens of a small town and learn how this deadly contagion can be stopped.”

This film was very much of a science film, where the top scientists would go through their tests and experiments, talk about them and then move along. Because of that, a lot of the film was a slow burn. That is not a bad thing as the scientific scenes worked well here. The four scientists, played by Arthur Hill, James Olson, David Wayne and Kate Reid, were interesting enough to bring their personalities into the scenes and help amplify the anxiety.

The final half hour or so of The Andromeda Strain was exciting and paid off the previous acts of the film. There were some scenes filled with tension and nerve-rattling events that kept me on the edge of my seat. It was in stark contrast to the slower parts of the earlier scenes.

The film felt almost like a mystery, with the four scientists trying to discover what the Andromeda Strain was spread and how it might grow.

There is an intelligence about the film and I love how this is shown. Could it have been shortened a little bit? Yes, However, building the tension through the initial scenes is a wonderful way to tell the story.

Cloud Atlas (2012)

Compelling. Creative. Complex. Contemplative. At times, confusing. The epic sci-fi film Cloud Atlas can be described in all of these ways. For nearly three hours, I watched this film from directors Tom Tyker, Lana and Lilly Wachowski and I was completely swept up into the majestic, mishmash mosaic.

A plot synopsis is defeating the purpose for Cloud Atlas. It covers six different stories from six different timelines, ranging from an 1800s ship to a futuristic yet primitive Hawaii. Each of the six tales have a shared link somewhere within, whether directly or subtly. This is a movie that demands your attention. Cloud Atlas is not a film that you can put on in the background and hope to understand what was happening. In fact, I am sure that there are thigs that even I missed and I was watching closely.

The film featured several actors playing multiple roles, led by Tom Hanks who played seven different characters. The range among Hanks’ characters was varied as possible as he was a horribly greedy doctor up to a man tormented by the voices in his head. The cast of actors playing multiple roles included Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant, Susan Sarandon, Bae Doona, Keith David, Ben Whishaw, Jim Sturgess, Zhao Xun, David Gyasi and Robert Fyfe.

Jim Broadbent stood out the most for me, especially as Timothy Cavendish. His expressive nature and facial expressions fit beautifully in with the movie was telling and he was, at many times, geniusly funny.

The narrative structure was unlike any film I have ever seen and its very nature will cause many people to be lost. Seeing the different stories all intertwined in the film was an amazing achievement in editing and direction. The soundtrack was a fantastic addition to the film and the use of the “Cloud Atlas” music piece was a rich moment from the story.

There were plenty of exciting and dramatic moments and several of intense hilarity as well. Easily my favorite moment in the film was when Tom Hanks’ character, author Dermot Hoggins took a book critic and tossed him off the roof of a building during a launch party.

Admittedly, I did have a bit of a struggle with the movie at the very beginning. I had trouble getting into the stories at first, but as the film progressed, I found myself engaged in every one and fascinated with the ideas and the acting presented by the talented cast. This feels like a film you would gather something new from after every subsequent viewings.

I had been extremely excited when I scheduled this movie among the Genre-ary Sci-Fi DailyView because it was a film that I had never seen, despite hearing about and I have usually enjoyed Tom Hanks films. This exceeded my expectations. I was not ready for the sweeping epic that Cloud Atlas was and was a masterpiece of technical and storytelling it truly is. It is my current favorite film among the Genre-ary. It may not be for everybody, but I found this to be exceptional.

Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

I remember distinctly going to the theater in my home town to see Big Trouble in Little China, the John Carpenter film starring Kurt Russell, and coming out not liking it. Over the next thirty plus years, I heard a lot of people support the film, some even going as far as to place it on lists of the greatest ever. I have been considering doing a Do Over with Big Trouble for a few years now, but I never got around to it. Tonight, taking a break from the Genre-ary, I rented the film off Vudu and watched it for the second time. Sadly, I still did not like it much.

According to IMDB, “Truck driver Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) arrives in Chinatown, San Francisco, and goes to the airport with his Chinese friend Wang Chi (Dennis Dun) to welcome his green-eyed fiancée Miao Yin (Suzee Pai)who is arriving from China. However she is kidnapped on the arrival by a Chinese street gang and Jack and Wang chase the group. Soon they learn that the powerful evil sorcerer called David Lo Pan (James Hong), who has been cursed more than two thousand years ago to exist without physical body, needs to marry a woman with green eyes to retrieve his physical body and Miao is the chosen one. Jack and Wang team-up with the lawyer Gracie Law (Kim Cattrail), the bus driver and sorcerer apprentice Egg Shen (Victor Wong) and their friends and embark in a great adventure in the underground of Chinatown, where they face a world of magicians and magic, monsters and martial arts fighters.

I found this movie to be ridiculous. I did enjoy Kurt Russell’s performance in the film as the overly macho doofus Jack Burton. His over-the-top antics fit in with the tone of the film.

The special effects do not hold up very well. To be fair, it was 1986 and even the best films at the times have some difficulty holding up, but this did not feel as strong in special effects as Ghostbusters did a few years prior. There were more practical effects in this movie, such as the Wild-Man character.

There did seem to be plenty of the Chinese racial stereotypes heavily used through the film, and there can be no denying that Jack Burton is the personification of the “white savior” trope that has been prevalent in so many movies. Of course, Jack was not as significant of a fighter as his sidekick, Wang Chi. He is overshadowed by the charismatic Russell. This is the type of movie that would never be made today.

Big Trouble in Little China almost felt like a satire or a parody of the martial arts style of movie, but I do not think it works very well. There is humor in the film and it, at times, overwhelms the movie.

I guess my initial reaction to the film is maintained. Maybe I’ll try it in another 35 years.

I Think We’re Alone Now (2018)

Day: January 14th, Movie: 14

During my search for potential Genre-ary Sci-Fi DailyView films, I found this on Hulu and it piqued my curiosity. Peter Dinklage is a solid actor and a good post apocalyptic story is always a fun time. You know what I mean…

Well, I Think We’re Alone Now is nothing really special. It is an okay film that banks on the strength of its main lead actors to carry it through. It just felt as if the promise of potential was unfulfilled.

Del (Peter Dinklage) was a sole survivor of a small town after a worldwide pandemic wiped out human life. Del believed he was alone and went about his life, clearing out houses and burying the dead. One night, Del saw fireworks and realized that there maybe someone else out there. The next day, he discovered Grace (Elle Fanning) unconscious in her car. He first does not want her around, but she sticks with him and they bond.

While both Peter Dinklage and Elle Fanning are excellent actors and they do good work here, I did not get the romantic feel between them. For most of the film, it felt like they were just two people who were lonely and who spent time together. The romance felt pushed.

The story took a strange turn in the third act which also felt tagged on. There were some interesting ideas introduced, but it seemed like a different movie. Honestly, I found the last part of the movie to be potentially intriguing, but rushed because it showed up at the end and did not have a ton of development throughout. It did not fit into the tale that they were spinning. I did enjoy the arrival of Paul Giamatti though.

This was not the worst film I have seen, but there really isn’t that much here to really remember. I believe that there are better post apocalyptic films that take more risks and are more entertaining. This has two great actors in an average film.

The Stuff (1985)

Day: January 13, Movie: 13

This film is destined to be done by RiffTrax. I’m actually surprised that it hasn’t been done yet.

This thing was just unbelievably bad, in just about every aspects of filmmaking. The acting, the special effects, the story, editing… everything.

According to IMDB, “A delicious, mysterious goo that oozes from the earth is marketed as the newest dessert sensation, but the tasty treat rots more than teeth when zombie-like snackers who only want to consume more of the strange substance at any cost begin infesting the world.

This started immediately. An old man found this bubbling white substance coming from the earth and, this guy, as anyone would, thought it was a good idea to taste it. I know that this was the first thought I had. This was just the start of the ridiculousness that was The Stuff.

Michael Moriarty played David, a former FBI agent who became involved in the case. Moriarty was giving the worst accent (or best Benoit Blanc imitation) I have ever heard. The film also featured Garrett Morris, Paul Sorvino and Danny Aiello. Obviously, someone had pictures worthy of blackmail to get these serious actors to participate in this stupid movie.

I believe there was some intention for this to be a satire dealing with the consumerism of the American public, but that does not come past the idiotic story.

There was a scene where Jason (Scott Bloom), a kid who had seen the Stuff moving in his refrigerator one night, and was running from his family who was trying to get him hooked on the substance as well, jumped into a car with total stranger David, who pulled up and yelled at the boy to get in. Jason did not even wonder if this was a good idea. Perhaps there were less dangers back in the 80s.

When I saw Abe Vigoda and Clara Peller (Where’s the Beef?) cameo, it was well past knowing what I was watching.

The thing is… the movie was kind of entertaining because it was so bad. This would be the perfect RiffTrax film. I sure hope they come across it. Meanwhile, this was terrible.

Stargate (1994)

Day: January 12th, Movie: 12

This film, which I had never seen before, led to a long running TV show based on it, but I had not watched it either. However, i was aware of Stargate. The TV show featured Richard Dean Anderson (MacGyver himself). However, I was not aware of the original film cast which was one of the reasons I was attracted to this film.

I love James Spader. I love Kurt Russell. Both of them in the same movie made Stargate something that I was happy to include in the Genre-ary Sci-Fi DailyView.

After watching this on HBO Max, I have thoughts.

First, according to Rotten Tomatoes, “In modern-day Egypt, professor Daniel Jackson (James Spader) teams up with retired Army Col. Jack O’Neil (Kurt Russell) to unlock the code of an interstellar gateway to an ancient Egypt-like world. They arrive on a planet ruled by the despotic Ra (Jaye Davidson), who holds the key to the Earth travelers’ safe return. Now, in order to escape from their intergalactic purgatory, Jackson and O’Neil must convince the planet’s people that Ra must be overthrown.”

Stargate was fun, but it had several moments of real dumbness. Let me start with James Spader. He was great in the film as Daniel Jackson. He played the wonder of the situation beautifully and he made every scene better. Kurt Russell was fine, but I have seen him play this type of role before. However, he is Kurt Russell and he always is watchable. This is no exception.

The effects of the film were pretty decent. It was 1994 and this held up fairly well.

The premise behind the story was pretty good too. I really enjoyed the first act of the film as Daniel was trying to determine what the Stargate was and how it worked. This was definitely the best part of the film. When they went through the Stargate and wound up on the Egypt-like desert planet, things started to take steps backward.

The people they met on this planet were not very relatable. The problem with the language differences kept me from engaging them. Then, the villains were totally campy. They were dressed like Egyptian gods and that just did not work. Some of the dialogue needed to be better, especially in the second and third acts.

Despite the many troubles of the film, there was something fun about Stargate. Director Roland Emmerich is known for the big, dumb, epic films such as Independence Day, White House Down, and The Patriot. He was also responsible for Moonfall, Independence Day: Resurgence, and Godzilla (1998). Stargate falls in between these films. It’s dumb, but fun.

Slaughterhouse-Five (1972)

Day: January 11th, Movie: 11

This was another film that was filled with bizarre moments and a variety of tones. Slaughterhouse-Five is a comedy, a sci-fi film, a war movie and a drama. It is an odd mishmash of tones that do not always blend together well.

Billy Pilgrim (Michael Sacks) kicked off the movie writing a letter to a newspaper claiming to being “unstuck in time” and bouncing around his life span. He goes to his past as a young soldier behind enemy lines during World War II. He and a group of other Americans were captured and taken to the German city Dresden.

We also see Billy in a present day where he is married to his wife, Valencia (Sharon Gans) with a couple of adult children. Valencia died by accident after she was racing to the hospital to see Billy, who had been involved in a plane crash.

We also got a vision of Billy’s future and his death. Billy wound up on the planet Tralfamadore (which was a series of planets used in Kurt Vonnegut novels, of which this film was inspired).

I was never sure if I was supposed to laugh at some of the things that were happening or if I was supposed to be upset by them. The narrative structure of bouncing around the timeline was interesting and did remind me of the format of LOST episode The Constant (though the actual story of the TV show was different than Slaughterhouse-Five).

Michael Sacks did a great job as the main protagonist of this movie, having to display different times of the same character. He was able to create several distinct characters out of the same person. I thought that the rest of the cast was overacting or were not up to the lead performance.

Slaughterhouse-Five was a sci-fi war, dramady that just did not work together very well. It was fascinating at first, but the unstable tone caused me to feel put off by the movie.

Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (2001)

Day: January 10th, Movie:10

I went to HBO Max tonight for the next film in the Genre-ary Sci-Fi DailyView. It was Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius. I had never watched an episode of the TV show, so I had no expectations coming in to Jimmy Neutron. Apparently, the TV series was the sequel to the film, which had received an Oscar nomination among

According to IMDB, “Jimmy Neutron is a boy genius and way ahead of his friends, but when it comes to being cool, he’s a little behind. All until one day when his parents, and parents all over Earth are kidnapped by aliens, it’s up to him to lead all the children of the world to rescue their parents.”

This movie was fun and silly. It had a good humor to it and the computer generated animation was decent. I was surprised when I heard Martin Short’s voice as one of the alien creatures.

Other voices in the film included Debi Derryberry, Patrick Stuart, Carolyn Lawrence, Rob Paulson, Frank Welker, Bob Goen, Mary Hart, Megan Cavanagh, Mark DeCarlo, Jeffrey Garcia, Crystal Scales, David L. Lander, Jim Cummings, Billy West, Kimberly Brooks, Candi Milo, and Dee Bradley Baker.

The tone of the movie was definitely for a younger audience, but I still found this entertaining. There was some clever writing and the story was simple but well done.

Explorers (1985)

Day: January 9th, Movie: 9

I watched a film tonight called Explorers, which was perhaps the most ultimate ’80s movie I have seen in a long time. It felt in the same vein as The Goonies, Short Circuit, and The Flight of the Navigator. It was the debut for both Ethan Hawke and River Phoenix. Then, it took a turn and just became the weirdest thing I have seen in a long time.

Ben (Ethan Hawke) and Wolfgang (River Phoenix) are two teens working on a project, an idea that came from Ben’s dreams. A blueprint that he had to remember and write down when he would wake up. Meanwhile, Ben was having trouble with other kids at school and he was rescued form a beating by Darren Woods (Jason Presson). The three boys started working together when the dreams lead to a huge breakthrough… the design of a spaceship.

Around this time, this movie went completely batshit crazy.

I am not sure that I have seen anything like this. When the kids were able to create their spaceship, they heading into space and meet up with some aliens and… I do not know how to explain this. There was a spider-robot thing that I really thought was about to anally probe Ben.

And that wasn’t the strangest thing.

The film did not have much of a story, and several of the early film ideas were dropped. The special effects were decent, but dated. ILM did do the effects for this movie and a lot of what they did seemed practical.

You could see that Ethan Hawke had a future ahead of him and it was sad watching the dearly departed River Phoenix. They were vey skilled and made this bizarre movie all the better.

Grummy (2021)

It may not be Saturday, but I watched a short on YouTube tonight so consider it a special Sunday Short.

This past weekend, the new horror/comedy M3GAN debuted with over 30 millions dollars at the box office. One of the main stars of that film was young Violet McGraw, who did a great job playing opposite M3GAN in that film. After seeing that, I had heard about a live short that she starred in back in 2021 so I looked it up on YouTube, It was called Grummy.

McGraw played Sarah, a little girl whose imagination was flying free and she was heading into a magical fantasy land along with her stuffed toy, Grummy (voiced by Alexander Ward). Once in the land, though, Grummy ate all of the food that she had brought, immediately causing trouble.

When her father, Jack (Tom Degnan) was calling for her to come out, the magical illusion was broken and she was back in her room, under a canopy of blankets. Jack realized that she had wet the bed and he was trying to get her to come out.

At this moment, things became really dark and difficult to watch as Jack rubbed Sarah’s back and wanted them to play their “special game.” I actually said “Oh No” as I quickly realized what was being suggested by Jack.

Thankfully, she got away from him with the help of the fantasy Grummy.

This was a painful 10+ minutes as it was clear that this little girl was being abused and was searching for a way to escape the abuser.

Violet McGraw was heartbreaking in this short and she clearly has some amazing acting chops. I hope we see a lot more of her in the near future.

It was a powerful short that can approach a painful but vitally important topic.

The Prestige (2006)

Day: January 8th, Movie: 8

Personally, I have not been a big fan of Christopher Nolan’s work. Outside of The Dark Knight, Batman Begins and Memento, I have found his films to be overrated and disappointing. I had never seen The Prestige before and when it popped up on some sci-fi lists, I thought the Genre-ary Sci-Fi DailyView would be the perfect opportunity to put this film in the watched column.

However, looking at the synopsis, it did not seem like much of a sci-fi film. The entry on Wikipedia called it “science fantasy” so I was unsure if it actually would qualify for the Genre-ary. However, after watching it, I absolutely believe that a major section of the film fell into the category of sci-fi and would work perfectly well in this category.

According to IMDB, “In the end of the nineteenth century, in London, Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman), his beloved wife Julia McCullough (Piper Perabo), and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) are friends and assistants of a magician. When Julia accidentally dies during a performance, Robert blames Alfred for her death, and they become enemies. Both become famous and rival magicians, sabotaging the performance of the other on the stage. When Alfred performs a successful trick, Robert becomes obsessed trying to disclose the secret of his competitor with tragic consequences.”

The world of magic set in this period piece was already intriguing enough, but the film added several key moments. Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale are fantastic in their co-lead, both as magicians going back and forth with their mind games and manipulations. The cast also included the always wonderful Michael Caine, the beautiful Scarlett Johansson, the excellent Rebecca Hall, rocker David Bowie as Tesla, Tesla’s assistant Andy Serkis, as well as Daniel Davis, Roger Rees, Jim Piddock, Ricky Jay, W. Morgan Sheppard and Samantha Mahurin.

The story had about as many twists as one would expect when dealing with magicians. It was a film that required you to pay attention as it was told in a non-linear way and it blended together masterfully. One of the strengths of Christopher Nolan is the structure of the story being told. Everything works very well together and looking at it as a whole, the structure kept the audience guessing about what was happening.

The film had a great look and some excellent costumes, fitting right in at the end of the 19th century. The film did receive Academy Award nominations for Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction.

The science fiction aspect of The Prestige came into being thanks to the use of real life scientist/inventor Nikola Tesla, played spot on by David Bowie. The technology used in the film was not possible (at least at this time) and was a huge risk for the film. It took this chance in a basically realistic story and it could have messed it all up. For example, I had been enjoying Interstellar until the third act where the flip ruined it all for me. This surprise in The Prestige did not throw me off course and I think fit nicely in with the magic.

This film moves up to around the top of my personal Nolan film favorite list. It was well acted and kept the audience guessing with what was going on with an original style of storytelling.

A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)

Day: January 7th, Movie: 7

Steven Spielberg directed a movie that had been handed him by Stanley Kubrick, who had owned the rights for a few years, but was unable to get the film produced. After Kubrick’s death, Spielberg was finally able to direct A.I. Artificial Intelligence.

Starring Haley Joel Osment, fresh off his Academy Award nominated performance in The Sixth Sense, A.I. Artificial Intelligence was filled with some beautiful imagery and amazing shots. The special effects of the movie were amazing, providing the setting/background for Haley Joel Osment to do this work.

Osment brought an excellent performance as David, a robot created as a young boy who could feel love- something that was not done before. As a trial run, David was given to a husband and wife whose son was in a terrible accident and had been comatose for five years. Monica (Frances O’Connor) and Henry (Sam Robards) were uncertain about David, but eventually, Monica came to accept the young Mecha. She imprinted herself on David, a process that she was warned could not be broken and, if something bad would happen, would require David to be returned and destroyed.

After the imprinting, Henry came to his wife with the news that their injured son, Martin (Jake Thomas) had awoken and was coming home. Martin began to feel jealousy over David and started plotting against him. In the end, after David unintentionally nearly drowns Martin, Monica knew that David could not stay with them. However, she could not take him back to be destroyed wither, so instead, she took him and dropped David in the woods, deserting him.

David went on a quest in an attempt to find The Blue Fairy, from his favorite movie Pinocchio, trying to be made into a real boy.

I did not like much of the beginning of this movie. I found Monica to be a terrible mother and Henry did not even try to bond with David. Dumping him in the woods like a stray dog was such a cowardly thing to do, I had a real hard time hoping that David could get his wish and find his way back to Monica as a real boy. I also did not find Frances O’Connor’s performance to be very well done. I did not believe much of anything she did early in the movie and she seemed to be obviously acting. I did not enjoy her performance much.

When David met up with Jude Law, who played Joe, a gigolo robot whose job was to please women, the film took a turn into the world of creepiness. I felt a little uncomfortable with the material that Haley Joel Osment was acting around and, though Jude Law was charming in this role, he felt like nothing more than a suave Scarecrow (from the Wizard of Oz). I am not sure what his purpose was outside of just getting David where he needed to go and to creep me out.

The ending 20-30 minutes felt added on, though apparently it was not. None of the ending of the film felt earned and did not have much of any narrative structure to the film.

While it did have its moments, I was disappointed overall with A.I. Artificial Intelligence. It had plenty of themes, but none of them seemed to be developed over the course of the film. Haley Joel Osment was excellent again and the look of the film was lovely, but after that, I did not like the story, the other characters or the finale. It was a true disappointment.

Them! (1954)

Day: January 6th, Movie: 6

Today’s Genre-ary Sci-Fi DailyView film is a black and white classic from 1954, a monster movie with giant ants called Them!.

According to IMDB, “In the New Mexico desert, Police Sgt. Ben Peterson (James Whitmore) and his partner find a child wandering in the desert and soon they discover that giant ants are attacking the locals. FBI agent Robert Graham (James Arness) teams up with Ben and with the support of Dr. Harold Medford (Edmund Gwenn) and his daughter Dr. Patricia ‘Pat’ Medford (Joan Weldon), they destroy the colony of ants in the middle of the desert. Dr. Harold Medford explains that the atomic testing in 1945 developed the dangerous mutant ants. But they also discover that two queen ants have flown away to Los Angeles and they are starting a huge colony in the underground flood control tunnels of that city. When a mother reports that her two children are missing, the team begin searching for them. Will they arrive in time to save the children and destroy the colony?

The film surprised me because it did a really good job of keeping the ants hidden through the film. It was the 1950s and the special effects are spotty, but they do a great job of maintaining the mysteriousness. The moments that they use the ants are kept minimal and it maximizes the opportunity.

Meanwhile, it does a solid job of providing us with a group of characters to root for as they are chasing the monstrous ants. James Arness gives a great performance and is one of the better characters to watch. I also enjoyed the scientist Harold Medford who had so much knowledge of ants (including a film detailing all the facts about ants). Edmund Gwenn went from playing Santa Claus in Miracle on 34th Street to the world’s most knowledgeable ant guy.

The story was very relevant for the time as it helped kick off the atomic monster films. It had been under a decade since the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan and the idea of what the a-bomb could do was front and center in the minds of the public. Causing a group of ants to mutate seemed very realistic and created an anxiety. The response of the film’s characters made a lot of sense too.

There were a few scenes that I felt that I needed that were not included in the film. The ending needed something for me and there was a reunion scene with the kids and their mother that was missing in my opinion. Still, the film worked well and I really thought it was more than I thought it would be.