Posts Tagged 'Netflix'

Our Sci-Fi cups runeth over! With the release of Stranger Things last week we’re hitting a high water mark as far as quality genre shows on the subscription channel are concerned.

While we remain indebted to Channel 4 for bringing Black Mirror to our screens having all three seasons, and the Christmas special, of Charlie Brooker’s opus on Netflix now seems entirely appropriate. Also hats off to Amazon for their adaptation of Man in the High Castle by Philip K Dick, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that the big red N currently has so much more to offer.

True the level of quality remains hit and miss. Self/less (2015) is a terrible film that makes no sense at all even at the level of a script, let alone realised on screen. However, the likes of District 9 (2009), The Butterfly Effect (2004) and Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013) completely reverse the trend.

Talking of Star Trek, Discovery is another welcome joy that honours and challenges its predecessors, while delivering everything you might want from a Sci-Fi show at a breakneck pace. The casting of Jason Isaacs as the conflicted Captain Lorca, is also an act of genius as Netfix fan girls and boys will already be totally invested in him as an actor thanks to Brit Marling’s The OA.

Then over from SyFy you have The Expanse which is really getting into its stride with a second series, especially with Thomas Jane’s Detective Miller becoming an iconic, grizzled space cop. Additionally, let’s not forget Rik and Morty, Orphan Black, Dirk Gently, Cowboy Bebop… All downloadable and available on the go – albeit in piecemeal fashion.

Actually, with Cowboy Bebop, there is one thing that Netflix doesn’t do a great job of and that’s creating an extensive back catalogue. This is probably due to contractual limitations laid down by the distributors and, as such, great films that were once on the system can no longer be located. Classic series like Dr Who and Star Trek do appear in their entirety and, as time is the new limited commodity, you can always apply the data of Graph TV to ensure you only get to view the highlights of any series. All of which means if you want a Sci-Fi good time for the majority of the time, Netflix is currently king.

Tags: , , ,

phase-iv

Hot on the taloned heels of witnessing the Hitchcock/Truffaut documentary, comes a reading of Daphne du Maurier’s The Birds on the BBC Radio iPlayer. Predictably, it’s all the motivation this site needs to contemplate genre themes around nature turning against us en masse.

The Birds, first published in 1952, set a high benchmark for all emulators that followed and, as a result, output ever since has been pretty dire in comparison. From the low rent Killer Bees (2002) to the big budget, but equally risible, The Happening (2008), success has been more about tight narratives as opposed to special effects or the way nature chooses to dispatch us.

Probably the most compelling and Sci-Fi orientated trilogy in this space is James Herbert’s The Rats (1974), Lair (1979) and Domain (1984). While the story begins with all the typical tropes in place – ecological issues, a prolific creature and a small group of involved individuals – by Domain we’re experiencing a post-apocalyptic world in which the human survivors battle against the vermin for some kind of subterranean existence.

Insects provide another suitable threat to humanity but, once again, with mixed results. Even the writing of Arthur Herzog III, the directorial skills of Irwin Allen – fresh from The Poseidon Adventure (1972) – and the inclusion of Michael Cain as leading man couldn’t bootstrap The Swarm (1978) above average. Nicholas Edwards’ novel Arachnophobia had a better transition into film in the same year as the book was published (1992). However, it’s Saul Bass’ Phase IV (1974) that makes it onto the Drozbot hit list. Even today its favouring of ideas over thrills, bold cinamatography and Dali-esque Surrealism creates something that can’t easily be dismissed. Plus, it’s just become available on Netflix in the UK.

We could delve deeper and consider works that employ both dogs and cats as potential threats – such as David Fisher’s The Pack (1976) – but the general outlook remains one for improvement. There’s plenty of room to revisit this sub-genre and the increasing ecological threat of humanity upon our planet, offers an interesting twist with the premise of a vengeful Gia. It’s a bug infested baton buried in the middle of a rat-king, but there’s creative potential there for anyone brave enough to reach in and pick it up.

Tags: , , , , ,