Archive for December, 2015

The last Drozbotian post of the year has traditionally been a combination of Sci-Fi filmic retrospective and preview, and 2015 is no different.

As ever, some of the films we championed back in 2014 have resulted in disappointment (Jupiter Ascends, Chappie and Tomorrowland), whereas others have been pleasantly better than expected (Mad Max: Fury Road and The Martian). There were also some left-field titles that piqued our interest along the way (Under the Skin and Ex Machina), all of which collectively made for plenty of all out thrills with enough pause for thought to satisfy our more speculative needs.

In contrast 2016 is looking to be a much slimmer proposition, but there’s still some scope for surprise over the next 12 months.

Whether J.J. Abrams’ thus far excellent Star Trek reboot can stretch to a third iteration is yet to be confirmed. Regardless, with Simon Pegg on script writing duties there’s a good chance that Star Trek Beyond will deliver the same smart narrative of its predecessors. Sticking with the big guns, the inner space/virtual reality worlds of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One should also find audience traction in the hands of Steven Spielberg.

At the art house end of the equation, things are pretty sparse on the radar. Thankfully, Ben Wheatly’s adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s High Rise will now be released in March in the UK.

Beyond the above, however, there seems to be the usual sensationalist reliance on disaster, super heroes and special effects. Perhaps the all female cast of the Ghostbusters reboot will offer some humorous distraction alongside a hoped for duplication of The Force Awakens quality in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. That said, we’re already betting the likes of Independence Day, The 5th Wave, Alien: Covenant and DxM will leave us uninspired.

That’s it then for another year, except to wish everyone who has visited or contributed to the site the very best for 2016!

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For some, the winter season allows for time chilling out in front of the device of your choice and catching up on films. But finding a family suitable, feel-good movie within the Sci-Fi genre – thus satisfying all the wishes of any geek household – can prove tricky. Guardians of the Galaxy might well suffice as an entertainment, however it lacks a delightful layer of sentimental uplift that lesser, non-genre titles come jam packed with.

There are now just enough animated films that sit at the more whimsical end of the fantastical spectrum to at least provide some level of choice. Previously, Sci-Fi sat somewhat awkwardly in the teen/adult bracket – see Fantastic Planet (1973), Wizards (1977) and Titan AE (2000).

Although we’re not focusing on TV series in this post, there was one Canadian effort that captured the required uplifting quirkiness. Clive A Smith’s Rome-O and Julie-8 may well have been based upon William Shakespeare’s tragedy, but the ending of this kid-friendly short was always destined to be upbeat.

Obviously the explosion of anime into the European and North American markets has given us access to Studio Ghibli among others once again, however, there’s a tendency for the subject matter be more fantastical. Even titles like Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind – which are more technologically focused – tend to be quite serious and light on comedy and schmaltz.

So what does this actually leave us with on our seasonal watch list? It’s almost a totally Disney line up, but there is the inclusion of Brad Bird’s 1999 tale of one boy and his massive robot, The Iron Giant. While true to Ted Hughes’s original story in sentiment alone, the film still stands as a great piece of retro Sci-Fi and also as a chronological watershed that triggered a slew of good and great movies from Disney. Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001),Treasure Planet and Lilo and Stitch (both in 2002) and then, at the narrative apex of this particular collection, Wall-E (2008 – see above).

Maybe such a collection is merely an exercise in creating a niche within a niche for the sake of it, but there are enough hours of footage above – excluding Big Hero Six which we haven’t reviewed as yet – to get you and your family through to New Year.

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Jakku by Speeder

As we marvel at the cool workings of BB-8 in The Force Awakens, it’s interesting to consider the technological innovations the film series has foreshadowed. While Star Trek can lay claim to personal communicators and stun guns, George Lucas’s franchise now features more real world tech than might first be imagined.

Look at Microsoft’s Hololens, and the overlaying of 3D computer generated images onto real world settings. With this, you effectively have something analogous to the holograms used throughout Star Wars. There may well be an added layer of technology in the fact that the images require a worn device rather than just the naked eye, but its hard to disentangle Princess Leia’s 1977 plea for help from this emergent technology.

Androids are another prevalent element that appear throughout the films’ universe. First as slave-like assistants and then – with the inclusion of IG-88 in Empire Strikes Back – as combatants. The militarisation of these units ultimately culminates in the battle droids of The Phantom Menace which, when you look at some of the current drone technologies (or the weirdly animal-like creations of Boston Dynamics) doesn’t seem as far fetched as they once did.

Next up are Areoflex, just one company trying to bring hover bikes into existence. While the early test flights appear cautious, not overly exciting and a far shout from the chases on the forest world of Endor, its hard to fault the company’s ambition.

The coolest item of tech, however, remains elusive despite the lightsaber being an iconic motivator for numerous inventors. Allen Pan is the latest in a long line of technicians and theorists all trying to bring the weapon to life. His gas-powered flame sword uses a chemical solution that dodges light’s natural propensity to scatter, but still fails to generate a hard edge – swords made of light should literally pass through each other. Although its a signature weapon among fans everywhere, it’s still sad – although unsurprising for a franchise entitled Star ‘Wars’ – that military applications dominate the list above. Let’s not forget that there is a recognisable division between fact and fiction and weird things tend to happen when this demarcation gets blurred by those who should really know better.

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