Strange Days

Year: 1995
Genre: Science Fiction
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Angela Bassett, Juilette Lewis, Tom Sizemore
Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Strange Days is set in Los Angeles the last days of 1999 and tells the story of an ex-cop named Lenny Nero (Ralph Fiennes). After Nero is driven out of the LAPD, he becomes a dealer and addict of memory encoded data-discs whose daily fix requires reliving past memories of his relationship with his musician ex-girlfriend (Juilette Lewis).

Angeles Bassett and Rapph FiennesNero receives a data-disc in which a murderer records the sadistic murder of a prostitute while wearing the gear to record the memories. He receives future data-discs and the subsequent investigation draws Nero, his ex-girlfriend (Lewis), a former LAPD colleague (Tom Sizemore), and his best friend (Angela Bassett) into a conspiracy which threatens to cause further racial tension and rioting in a city that is already on the brink of anarchy.

While the movie has traditionally been compared to Blade Runner, it offers it’s dystopian vision using different tools. The story telling is more linear and a bit less esoteric once the concept of memory encoding is understood. Music is an active part of the story telling, the violence is more pervasive and forward, and the action is faster and more direct. In essence, it’s grittiness over style in telling it’s tale.

Strange Days still plays well despite it being an almost 20 year old Science Fiction film. There are not many science fiction movies that are seemingly current (in-movie dates aside) after such a long period of time. Even the music is still a viable part of the movie, which is remarkable given the 1995 music scene. Acting and direction are all top-notch, although Lewis goes a bit heavy on both the nudity and ditziness.

Strange Days is currently streaming on Netflix.

Featured and inline images: 20th Century Fox
Movies Science Fiction Watch

Blade Runner -Deckard Revisited

For those of you that are unfamiliar with the film, “Blade Runner” is a Science Fiction film produced in 1982. It was directed by Ridley Scott and stars Harrison Ford, Sean Young, Ruter Hauer, Edward James Olmos, and Darryl Hannah among others. The film is considered by many to be one of the greatest achievements in Science Fiction cinema and is often classified as either necessary viewing or a cult phenomena (depending on who you ask).

Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford)“Blade Runner” went through an unusual development process both pre- and post-initial theatrical release. Poor test screenings and studio demands led to an initial release of the film which didn’t match Ridley Scott’s vision. In addition to Scott’s later edits removing and restoring bits of the film to more closely match his desires, different censorship expectations and requirements added to the number of available versions. The Wikipedia article lists seven different versions which all feature different elements, plot details, and overall running length. Part of the uniqueness (and charm) of “Blade Runner” is that each version is different in subtle or significant ways from the others, and the variations of the different films can lead viewers to make different conclusions about both the central characters and overall plot line. The variation makes the various editions of the film particularly suitable for repeat reviewing in order to compare and contrast conclusions about plot, character development, and motives

A recent post on robertebert.com does a terrific job at shifting the debate from the standard “is/isn’t Deckard a replicant” to “is/isn’t Deckard the villain.” While there is certainly interesting things to be seen in the the supporting arguments used to define Deckard as the actual villain, the comments of the post are as or perhaps more interesting as they provide proof of the fact that people are still genuinely interested and passionate about their opinions of a 32 year old movie.

May the debate last another 30 years.

Featured and Post Images: Warner Bros.
Movies Science Fiction Watch

Halo: Reach

I played the original Halo and a bit of Halo 2 on the original Xbox. I found both the games to be engaging and fun, and I thought a useable multi-player mode would add quite a bit to the gaming experience.

I then moved on to play more PC-based games, and I eventually was encouraged to donate my Xbox. A good friend of mine picked up an Xbox360 a while ago, and we played a bit of co-op Halo: Reach on his Xbox and his 50″ HD TV. As one might imagine, the overall experience changed significantly and I not so secretly envied an Xbox360 of my own so I could keel Covenant on my own. I never expected that such a desire would be fulfilled as I have always found other things (like a new iPhone) that attracted my discretionary income.

I was stunned when that very same friend bought me an Xbox360/250gb for Christmas (including the digital download version of Halo: Reach). After connecting the Xbox to my HDMI-switched tuner and 50″ Plasma, configuring the wireless adapter, and downloading the game, I fired off my first campaign mission. Wow. 1080p did this game a world of good, and the game play in the solo campaign was just as and sometimes more engaging as the original Halo and Halo 2. Even better, the multi-player via Live was useable and fun (even know I got my clock seriously cleaned by the online crowd).

Halo: Reach has a lot going for it, and I am very much looking forward to playing it online in co-op mode when my friend returns from his trip.

(btw, if anybody else out there is an Xbox Live gamer still playing Halo: Reach, let me know. Can’t say I’m any good, but I’m working on it.)

Science Fiction Video Games

Ender’s Game

I’ve been out of the science fiction reading business for quite some time. There have always been distractions to keep me away from reading for pleasure that have included pursuing my masters degree, catching up on TV both solo and with family/friends, and a good deal of time spent MMOing (more on that in a later post). After I finished school a few months ago, I set an internal goal. That goal wasn’t ambitious, and was full achievable with a little bit of effort and prioritization. That goal was to begin reading for pleasure again.

I finished reading my first new book as part of the reading initiative earlier this week. Ender’s Game is an award winning novel written by Orson Scott Card. The basic plot details a future Earth facing a third invasion by an alien species and their turning to Earth’s children in order to find the best and brightest tactical minds to fight the oncoming menace. Such a simplistic explanation does not do this book justice, there are very good reasons why this book is required reading by several military institutions as it delves into societal ethics, leadership issues, and the harsh reality of competitive society. This book can be as shallow or as complex as the reader desires, and that simply adds to the audience that would find this book interesting.

Anybody that enjoys reading science fiction *needs* to read Ender’s Game, it represents one of the best reads the genre has to offer.

Books Science Fiction

Battle: Los Angeles

Battle: Los Angeles is a 2011 Science Fiction film starring Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez, and a somewhat-capable supporting cast.  The film follows a platoon of US Marines as they battle an incoming alien invasion.

The acting in this title is mixed, with Eckhart doing a great job but some others being somewhat two-dimensional.  The lieutenant and military commanders are particularly plastic, and I found other performances to be somewhat flat.  Not helping the actors is a script full of old, tired cliches.  A better script in terms of dialog and variety would have made this movie as interesting as District 9.  As it stands, the movie’s dialog actively detracts from the final result.

I’m pleased to report that the news isn’t all bad.  Even being cliche-ridden with predictable situations, this movie’s action makes it worth at least a view.  I had a real sense of the kinetic fluidity and power of the alien armor and weapons, and the intensity of the firefights was impressive.  And Eckharts performance is believable and interesting.

This film is best viewed with the understanding that much of the dialog is fundamentally boring and completely predictable.  Just enjoy the action.

Movies Science Fiction Watch