Maze Of Death (Philip K Dick)

14 people end up in a settlement called Delmak-O. They don’t know why they are there, but the first arrivals are told to wait for the rest to appear before starting a tape that will contain the answers they so desperately desire. However, once everyone (save one member) has arrived, they find that the tape has been programmed to erase itself as it is played. So begins a tale of death, murder, and insanity. Slowly, surely, each member is murdered somehow… [Read more…]

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Die, Monster, Die! (1965 USA)

The original script for this adaptation of H. P. Lovecraft’s The Colour Out Of Space was so bad, written by Jerry Sohl, that the crew behind the camera could not stop giggling. At one point, actress Freida Jackson, wailed: “I can’t speak these lines. They’re unspeakable!” So director Daniel Haller had to rework the narrative mess. Despite his surgery, unintentional laughter remains. During an absurdly tense meal time scene, a servant collapses to the floor–taking the tablecloth and cutlery with him. Inspector Clouseau couldn’t have done it better.
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Dr Who – Planet Of Evil (1975 UK)

This adventure is the start of moving the series onward from the Earth based, UNIT adventures into new territory. UNIT had an excellent story Terror of the Zygons, prior to this, with the Brigadier and Benton on top form. But to expand the series scope back out to space was a good move even if it meant sadly phasing out UNIT. But Planet Of Evil is not regarded as a classic story by most Who fans. It rips off 1956’s Forbidden Planet along with Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. So it does get rather formulaic in places, but director David Maloney played up Louis Marks script to its main strength: atmosphere. Plus there’s a jungle to get lost in… [Read more…]

The End of Eternity (Isaac Asimov)

I’ve never had much time for Asimov, partly because of the media hype that surrounds his name. The problem I have with his writing here is that emotional situations seem to be taken to extremes: going from dry clinical detachment to wildly-in-love, blackmailing, murderous and suicidal, without any sort of in-between. Also, for a supposedly thoughtful and incredibly precise guy, his ability to jump to extreme conclusions based on minimal evidence is very jarring. His style is immature and his characters are flat. They are people who are so superficial and tedious that it is hard to care about any of them. So, lets turn to the plot… [Read more…]

Blade Runner 2049 (USA 2017)

images(This new Gutenberg–style of posting is taking some time to get used to. It feels like I’m typing this from the future) Anyway, the Hollywood hacks struck again last year with this beautiful looking flop. When it comes to sequels and prequels, the suits of Tinseltown cannot help themselves from reaching for that same old bottle. Despite increasing public scorn for some of these unnecessary products its become an addiction that Hollywood cannot give up.  [Read more…]

The Time Machine (1960 USA)

This film is truly a gem. There are problems with it when compared to H.G. Wells’s original story, but many of the additions and changes are actually improvements, in my opinion. The movie is fine without being like the original story. As far as the special effects go, they’re good enough for 1960, but really this film is not about how real it looks. Its about the warmth of the characters and their philosophical curiosity about the future. The tone of this version is innocent and subtle, completely unlike the violently harsh FX extravaganzas of today. [Read more…]

Silent Running (1972 USA)

This was one of five movies made by Universal “on the cheap”, (a millions bucks each) after the phenomenal success of the low-budget Easy Rider. Of the five, Silent Running was a modest success, though it suffered from lack of publicity, which was an erroneous decision made by Universal. Special effects wizard, Douglas Trumbull, was given the director’s reins. Silent Running is one of those lonely sci-fi films made in the spirit of 2001: A Space Odyssey where it’s all about astronauts being isolated and becoming gradually unhinged in deep space. What makes this one unique is the ecological theme, which is still timely today.
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Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun (1969 United Kingdom)

Intriguing sci-fi entry has enough going for it, that it deserves to be better known. Conceived and produced by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson of ‘Thunderbirds’ fame, it has a pace so slow that it’s not going to be to all tastes. But patient audience members should appreciate the excellent, colourful visuals and the vibrant cinematography. The special effects are pretty good & the music score is an enjoyable one. This flick provided what the audience of 1969 wanted: a detailed look on the astronauts, their training, preparation, the technical means available to them – make everything as realistic as possible. That was the thing to do, I suppose, if you wanted to entertain people who were witnessing the landing on the moon. [Read more…]

Star Wars: A New Hope (1977)

George Lucas remade one of the finest works of film master Akira Kurosawa, the Western-themed “Hidden Fortress,” with one scene (the fight in the bar) stolen from Yojimbo. Therefore, Star Wars  has a bit of the jittery discomfort of characters trying to fit into a story that wasn’t quite made for them, like people with past life experiences that intrude into the present. Kurosawa’s hero is split not into two but three heroes in Star Wars (four if you include the princess, who has a more prominent role in Star Wars. It is frankly too bad that Star Wars later fell into the hands of Disney and JJ Abrams, becoming a tool solely for cashing in, and a line item on someone’s accounting ledger, but I guess that is probably the way the wafer crumbles in Hollywood. I simply choose to ignore the boring new films… [Read more…]

The Amulet Of Samarkand (Bartimaeus #1) (Jonathan Stroud)

This novel is set in a modern-day London that is ruled by Magicians. It is written from the perspective of a djinni (demon) and an undervalued magician’s apprentice. It’s tempting to compare the book to the Harry Potter series. Young boy. Magic. Sneaking around. Breaking the rules. Stern teachers. But the similarities really end there. What’s obvious is that Stroud can write about a complex world (and one I want to know more about) and making it interesting and funny. I’m used to slow beginnings in fantasy but this one started with a bang.
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