Posts Tagged ‘sci-fi’

WALL·E – Fat & trash. Grit & emotion.

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

Whew. This movie was quite an experience. The Pixar studio movies of the last decade were usually much better than the average Disney diet that we had to swallow since at least the nineties – for some reason, Disney does not make movies that have enough heart and enough guts for critique, such as the 1973 Robin Hood had. Pixar fills this important void, offering children’s movies that are much more than entertaining. WALL·E, the main protagonist of the movie, is a heart breakingly amiable character. He demonstrates what animations and cartoons can be, if they are done right: instead of trying to be realistic or cartoonish, the animation in this movie focusses on the expression of emotions, on the expression of atmospheres, and the ways settings are felt. Of course, this is a children’s movie. But it is also much more than that. Like the novel which I am reading right now (Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer), WALL·E tells us a story which reflects the not only positive norms and easily forgotten destructive aspects of our societal existence – at the beginning of the 21st century these problems are, in a way, very much different than in the middle 19th century. But at the same time, our longing for sharing our life with people we adore and love remains the same, as does the joy in the physical experience and closeness to things, animals and others. Maybe the story of WALL·E will evoke perceptions and emotions that will help kids and adults alike to avoid producing a future in which the world has become a garbage heap and in which human society consists of people who do not touch each other any more. This is probably the best animated movie from the US of A that I have seen.
IMDb entry | Trailer

Sunshine – Roasting skin and popcorn.

Friday, April 27th, 2007

I entered the cinema like I prefer to do it: not knowing what the movie I am going to see is about. I only knew the title. Sunshine. Not very telling, isn’t it? And I knew that someone said it’s good. Equipped with popcorn and a beer and being in good company, I passed a poster that told me the director (Danny Boyle) also is responsible for Trainspotting. Exciting news. The near-apocalyptic, space ship setting of the movie took me by surprise. The well-told story and a range of interesting characters created a good base for a good film. All of this is set into scene with a good camera and several well-cast actors (we know Michelle Yeoh from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). If you are into sci-fi movies that at least try to present natural laws and physics as they should work, you should better forget all of this kind of knowledge before watching. The story-telling and the search for interesting scenes has dictated what is possible, how quickly people freeze in space and makes fun of the concept of gravity. On the other hand, this has produced some beautiful, some eerie and some shocker-style effects. Taken together, this is a solidly entertaining, well done (that is: not a-point) movie.
As the crew of the space ship gets closer and closer to the sun, trying to nuke it back into activity, we lost sound in the Rex cinema in Darmstadt. The movie lost its voice, the crew was getting closer to being roasted every minute, and we were recompensated with a popcorn voucher after the movie. Stay tuned if you want to know the occasion during which I consumed the free popcorn.
IMDb entry | Trailer

Das Buch, das ein Film sein will.

Wednesday, October 26th, 2005

Gestern Abend habe ich die Lektüre eines meiner Geburtstagsgeschenke beendet (leider ohne Widmung, aber ich begebe mich mal auf dünnes Eis; es war wohl von Christian, Maja, Markus und Meike – takk!). Es handelt sich um den Titel Der Schwarm von Frank Schätzing. Ich war überrascht, ein Buch dieses Typs – eine Mischung aus Deep Sea Science Fiction und Thriller – von einem deutschen Autor gemacht zu sehen. Natürlich gibt es wenig gute Gründe für diese Überraschung, da es wahrscheinlich an ordentlichen deutschen SF-Autoren nicht mangelt, wie ein Blick in die leider eingeschlafene Reihe Phantastische Bibliothek des Suhrkamp Verlags schnell zeigt. Nichtsdestotrotz. Frank Schätzing hat sich allerdings weniger an deutsche SF Traditionen angeschlossen, als sich dem amerikanischen Format zu widmen. Leider nicht dem Format eines Ray Bradbury oder Arthur C. Clarke (letzterer hat einige schöne Kurzgeschichten und Romane zur Tiefsee veröffentlicht), sondern eher dem Format von Hollywoods SF Kino Megasellern, die in dem Buch auch immer wieder erwähnt und zitiert werden. Das ganze Buch ist wie eben einer dieser Filme aufgebaut. Das heisst auch, dass es spannend und effektvoll ist. Aber gibt es darüber hinaus noch etwas, das mich anspricht? Die Sache mit dem Schwarm ist fein und eine gute Idee – allerdings sind kollektive Intelligenzen und die Menschheit bedrohende Schwarmwesen nun wahrlich nichts neues. Immerhin, sauber ausgeführt. Was mich noch am meisten gestört hat sind die öko-philosophischen Platitüden, die einigen Akteuren in den Mund gelegt werden. Das würde doch, bittesehr, die Story für sich erzählen können, ohne das es ständig ausgesprochen werden müsste. Diese Plumpheit ist ein Problem vieler Drehbücher – wie Olli mich zu sehen und hören gelehrt hat – und dieser Roman giert geradezu danach, verfilmt zu werden. Dann und wann wird auch die Science in dieser Fiction zu lehrbuchmäßig vorgestellt… Ich habe den knapp 1000-seitigen Roman innerhalb weniger Tage durchgelesen, fesselnd war er also schon. Aber angesichts all der besseren Bücher, die man so lesen könnte, kann ich eine keine unbedingte Leseempfehlung aussprechen.

It’s about the voices.

Wednesday, June 15th, 2005

Even though I heard that it only got bad reviews I took my chances and went to see The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The only two precautions I took were (a) going there with nice people (Olli, Mia, Manu) and (b) avoid the dubbed version. (b) was pretty obvious, I think. British culture and language plays such a crucial role in Douglas Adams‘ writing that one should avoid translations if it is at all an option. If I remember correctly, The Hitchhiker’s Guide has been the first novel I read in English. Voluntarily.
If I would have known before watching the movie that Alan Rickman does the voice for Marvin, the depressed hyper-intelligent robot, I wouldn’t even have considered being lazy and watching the movie in a dubbed version but in a cinema that is only a three minute walk away. Alan Rickman is great. As readers of this blog with a sound memory sure remember, I totally adore his death scene as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood… So, the voice acting in general was great, as was the casting. Douglas Adams’ novel is such a great piece of writing because it often strays away from the main plot, putting in funny little notes and stories. This is almost impossible to do well in a movie, I think. They tried to capture that stylistic element in this movie, and they did not fail. However, they lost quite a bit of the charm on the way. I don’t know if this could have been solved better – I guess not. If you know your way with towels and if you don’t mind movies adapted from novels then I think you will enjoy this movie. If you’re into absurd British humor and haven’t read Douglas Adams yet, you are probably the best possible viewer for this movie and should definitely watch it. If these two statements don’t apply to you I don’t care if you watch it or not…
42! ;)
IMDb entry | Trailer

A warning – don’t waste your time and money on this.

Tuesday, May 31st, 2005

Somehow, I got the impression that people liked the last part of the prequels to the classic Star Wars trilogy, Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, more than episodes one and two. I wonder how this happened. Yesterday evening I watched it with Olli here in the Kulturbrauerei in a dubbed version. It was as terrible as the others were. Cheesy dialogue, non-working puns, uncompelling actors, and – as Olli pointed out – no focus on a real main character. The story dips into this and that, people say that they are troubled, but everything remains wooden and unplausible. Of course, the special effects department is good, but I wasn’t blown away either. The soundtrack has nothing particularly enchanting or interesting in store and the pictures are much too obviously linked to what feeling currently should be induced into the audience. Bah. Nothing at all of the gritty and edgy charm that the original trilogy had in its best moments. Stay away. Don’t throw any more money into George Lucas’ throat. Maybe that keeps him from writing and directing more of this expensive garbage in the future.
IMDb entry

Adequate to Asimov.

Wednesday, September 29th, 2004

Last week Olli and I went to the Cinemaxx Colosseum in Berlin to watch I, Robot. I find it harder and harder not to succumb to the urge to raise my nose up a few inches and express my dislike for the multiplex theater industry. Slowly the Cinemaxxes are losing the appeal that they had during their first appearances here in Germany: they have lost the pristine newness. Patina doesn’t work in the multiplex world, in this context it is shabbyness. Dolby surround sound systems aren’t rare anymore, you can find good sound even in smaller independant cinemas. What is left is not very convincing: neither do they serve my favorite ice cream brand (no Nogger, no Cujamara Split!) nor do they provide a pleasant or at least festive atmosphere. The xth version of the Shrek 2 Menu with action puppets is not very inspiring. Well, back to the movie. It was better than I expected. Less action oriented than I would have thought. In contrast to Minority Report which was disappointing because it was just to clean to represent the depth and power of Philip K. Dick’s novel, this movie is based on elements from the many robot centered novels by Isaac Asimov, to which it seems to do some justice (it’s been a while since I read Asimov though… ) – obviously, I think Dick’s work is more complex and intriguing than Asimov’s.
IMDb entry | Trailer

Sigourney and the slime.

Sunday, November 9th, 2003

I have not noticed anything new in the Director’s Cut of Alien, but it still has been worthwile to watch it. It has been the first time that I have seen this classic movie in a theater and I have to emphasize that this is the proper way to watch it. Check out these featured clips at

Back from science + fiction and bustling Karlsruhe.

Monday, July 14th, 2003

The exhibition was good, we had a nice guide. You should probably check it out yourself. This is a link to the brain that they had on display. They also had some other interesting exhibitions and installations at the ZKM and they also had the obligatory nice museum book store. After being pointed to an interesting book by my co-Kollegiat Lars Meier (Urban Encounters by Helen Liggett) I spent some money for the mentioned book and for Iconoclash by Bruno Latour. Now I am feeling somewhat more like an intellectual again.
On Friday, we had the opportunity to see some Nanotechnology dinosaurs from the University of Karlsruhe. They were acting as one would expect: After some people were asking critical questions about nanotechnology in general one of the first questions they asked us (the members of the Graduiertenkolleg) was “Who of you studied physics? Chemistry? Mathematics?”. Well, looks like we’re not qualified… ;-) It was fun anyway especially since we were werved water and juice in measuring glasses that are usally used in labs.
Besides the work-related things that we saw, we also had some time to roam around the city. I must say that I am positively impressed. There was a lot of life on the street up until late in the night. Is this because of the proximity to France? Is it because of the climate? Whatever it’s causes, it was quite a striking difference to the Darmstadt experience. Although… yesterday, Sir Elton John gave a concert here in Darmstadt. See?