Posts Tagged ‘Robots

12
Sep
15

The Creation of the Humanoids (1962)

creationposter_3Who doesn’t enjoy mid-century science-fiction? Maybe I like it so much because we are now decades-removed from the prevalent paranoia that serves as its backbone; because its post-apocalyptic future is our kitschy past. I can look back and laugh at its naiveté, misogyny and general short-sightedness because we’ve come so far, right?

Well, yeah, maybe not that last part. And of course, not all science fiction of this period is laughable; a lot of it is legitimately good stuff. I can’t really say that’s true for The Creation of the Humanoids though! This movie is a god damn laugh riot! Seventy-five minutes of paranoid plot exposition, twists and turns that make no sense, and my favorite: the dismissal of women, even if they’re robots!

The setting is a dismal future after the atomic war. To make up for the loss in human population and low birth rate due to radiation, humans created a new breed of robots. The humans couldn’t tolerate working next to a robot that looked like a machine, so scientists worked hard to create robots that look like humans. But as the robot population grows, so does the backlash against them. The Order of Flesh and Blood is a large, aggressive conservative organization hellbent on wiping those pesky ‘clickers’ off the face of the Earth!

Robots and humans in collusion... but WHY?!

Robots and humans in collusion… but WHY?!

Trouble rears its ugly head when one of the heads of the Order, Captain Kenneth Cragis (that’s The Cragis to you) finds out his sister Esme is ‘in rapport’ with a robot! Well, this certainly won’t go over well with the Gents in The Order, many of whom already envy Cragis’s high position. He best go set Esme straight, because that woman needs her brother to tell her what to do, right?!

Well, Esme is pretty headstrong and she’s not having it. But the good news for Cragis is, he meets Esme’s friend Maxine while he’s over at Esme’s place. Party at Esme’s… at 2:30AM… just ’cause, I guess. By 4AM, Cragis and Esme are planning to get married, or ‘contract with one another.’ Cragis is still bummed about Esme’s unwillingness to ditch her robot husband, but thrilled to have met and fallen in love with his future contractor in the span of an hour and a half! I mean, who wouldn’t be? But you and I know, of course, trouble lies ahead…

Oh, Creation of the Humanoids, what a glorious disaster of a time capsule you are. On the one hand, I have to

I just can't get over The Cragis's pants. LOOK AT THOSE AMAZING PANTS!

I just can’t get over The Cragis’s pants. LOOK AT THOSE AMAZING PANTS!

admire its attempt at a positive message: don’t hate people (or, I guess in this case, things) that are trying to help you; don’t shake your fist at the advance of science and technology because you’re only hurting yourself, that kind of thing. But then I wonder how its ending can actually be consistent with that message. And no, I’m not going to spoil it for you, because the ending is so awesomely sweet you need to see it for yourself.

The presentation and pacing of this film is baffling. As I noted before, it really is nothing but exposition. There is not a single thing left up to the viewer to figure out on her own. Our friendly robot serves as narrator for virtually the entire movie. There are very few scenes where the action tells us anything, and when it does, it’s explained to us anyway – just in case we missed it. But don’t worry, that doesn’t actually mean the film is boring! The running time is short enough and the costumes and effects fun enough to gawk at that the seventy-five minutes will fly by like nothing. It is definitely worth watching, but only if you’re in it for the right reasons. I mean, I guess the movie is sort of thought-provoking, but being that it’s 2015 and these were thought-provoking ideas in 1962… well it’s kind of stuff most of us have figured out by now. I suppose you could twist some of the ideas into issues we’re dealing with today; like maybe replacing robots with climate change or something like that but frankly this movie’s probably better taken for what it is: a plea to the folks of 1962 to embrace technology, even if it means losing ourselves in it. Which, I guess here in 2015 we already have?

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15
Nov
14

Frankenstein’s Army (2013)

frankensteinsarmyposterWe blindly bought a used copy of Frankenstein’s Army from a pretty impressive horror section, like, in an actual store. It was one of those days where the stack of DVDs to purchase just got bigger and bigger, and I couldn’t think of a reason why I shouldn’t just throw another one on top. What’s another $3, I thought to myself? That was, of course, before I watched the trailer for the movie. If I’d seen that first, I probably would have put it back on the shelf in favor of something else. The good news is, the movie isn’t as bad as the trailer made me believe it would be. The bad news is, that doesn’t mean the movie’s good. Just a warning, this review is spoiler-y so if you care about that kind of shit, don’t read ahead.

A group of Russian soldiers are searching for some fallen comrades in Germany during World War II. This particular troop is lucky enough to be filmed, so the folks back home can see how the war effort is going, or something. Their search for their lost brethren takes them to a derelict building ridden with nun-corpses where they encounter strange creatures that come alive when met with an electrical current. The soldiers that are lucky enough to survive find out soon enough the man behind the movie camera is there for much more than recording. Turns out he’s actually running the whole operation: there are no fallen comrades; it’s all an undercover mission to bring the mad scientist Nazi Dr. Frankenstein (yes, the great grandson of you-know-who) back to Russia alive, where Uncle Joe can exploit the good doctor’s experiments that bring the dead back to life in robotic, weapon form.

Frankenstein’s Army is a movie constructed around the idea of its strange, monstrous creations. I guess the monsters were pretty cool, but the found-footage style of the film prevents us from getting any really good glimpses of the creatures. I definitely found myself asking what the film gained by using the found-footage format… and I have no answers. If anything, it detracted from the movie’s strongest assets, all while making me want to puke with its herky-jerky movements (not a novel found-footage complaint, I realize, but some movies do it better than others).

frankensteinsarmybrain

Dr. Frankenstein’s Brain Fusion

On top of that, all of the characters are all pretty gross. I never cared if any of them lived or died. Their relationships to each-other don’t offer anything new or interesting, it’s just your typical who’s-in-command-when-the-number-one-guy-dies-at-war conflicts, and the baddest of the baddies is insufferably, annoyingly evil. I was hoping at least Dr. Frankenstein would provide us with one interesting character, but when we finally meet him he’s pretty disappointing, too! Though he’s a little off-kilter (irritatingly, ‘quirky’ is probably the best word to describe him), he’s annoyingly calculated and mechanical (hehe, get it?). I wanted him to be a much more entertainingly unhinged ‘mad’ scientist than he ended up being.

So, what does Frankenstein’s Army have to offer? Well, aside from the few shots of robot monsters (dubbed zombots), not much. Even then, you can’t really see them enough to appreciate the work that went into creating them, which is a damn shame. There’s tons of gross-out gore, including a shot of Dr. Frankenstein attempting to fuse half a gooey Nazi brain with half a gooey Communist brain in all its squishy glory, so I guess if that’s what you’re looking for maybe this movie has something for you. But even still, I don’t find any of it very interestingly done. All in all a rather disappointing purchase that we won’t be keeping.

07
Mar
14

RoboCop (1987)

I managed to go a very long time before first seeing Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop. Perhaps it is because I am not a boy, and RoboCop was for boys. Perhaps I was just a little too young when it came out, and Total Recall satisfied my Dutch-director quota. I really don’t know why it took so long, but when I finally first watched it, I was floored by how legitimately good it is. Now that a shiny new reboot is out, I thought it was time to revisit it and see if the five stars I originally granted it would withstand the scrutiny of a second viewing. The short answer is: of course it did. In fact, I think I liked it even more now than I did before, quite possibly because I am growing more and more pinko by the day. More on that later. First, the basics. Also: WARNING. SPOILERS LIVE IN THIS POST.

Alex Murphy, the unsuspecting, optimistic cutie.

Alex Murphy, the unsuspecting, optimistic cutie.

RoboCop is set some time in the dystopian future. Detroit is an absolute mess; there’s no money, no jobs, and crime is rampant. In a desperate move, the mayor signs a shady deal with a company called Omni Consumer Products (OCP), handing over control of the Police Department to the private company. OCP has a big stake in controlling crime in Detroit, because they’ve also got license to demolish the worst parts of the city to make way for the new, shiny corporate city of the future, “Delta City.” How could they market their new Utopia to the rich and powerful if they’d all have to worry about having their wives getting roughed up outside their own high-rise condos?

Detroit’s police force is in an uproar over the change, and many of the cops are considering a strike. Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) is the new guy on the scene, passionate, a little cocky, but optimistic and ready to take on the mean streets of Detroit. His partner, Anne Lewis, is pretty badass herself. Together, they make a really good team. Unfortunately, there isn’t much time for their teamwork to gel: on their very first outing together they find themselves hot on the trail of Clarence Boddicker, a notorious drug lord and gang leader. The two become separated and Boddicker and his cronies pump wide-eyed Murphy full of lead. 

That's a big robot.

That’s a big robot.

Sad for the police force, but a boon to OCP, whose biggest decision-maker is on the lookout for a new, robotic policing option. The first proposal, brought to the table by senior president Dick Jones was nothing but a giant robot with bad programming.  When it blows a chairperson to pieces, the company’s at a loss, until up-and-coming corporate asshole Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer) lets the RoboCop out of the bag. The only thing they need to start the cyborg project up is a fresh dead body. 

Enter Officer Murphy’s corpse. When the cyborg cop makes his debut at the station, the cops are more than pissed off, but Officer Lewis is pretty sure she recognizes what little of the cyborg’s face she can see – she knows it’s Murphy, but the cyborg has been programmed and reprogrammed to have no memory of its former life. It has only been programmed to seek out crime and squash it out immediately, by any means necessary. What could possibly go wrong?

RoboCop's Prime Directives.

RoboCop’s Prime Directives.

Imagine my surprise when I first saw RoboCop; I was expecting pretty standard shoot-‘em-up sci-fi horror fare, but it is so much more than that. The phrase “brilliant satire” is pretty irritatingly eye-roll-inducing, but god dammit, the shoe fits here. Just the company’s name in itself, Omni Consumer Products, is such a perfect name for corporate evil! I’m sure there are many films depicting the dangers of privatization and capitalism run rampant, but this is definitely the best example I’ve ever seen. It not only covers what people stand to lose when its government relies on corporations for protection, but also lets us in on the greedy guys who hide behind the corporate name and allow their insatiable thirst for wealth and power to consume their lives. 

Certainly RoboCop spoke to the political issues of 1987, when America was in the midst of Reagan’s presidency, but it is just as relevant today as it was back then. Living in the economically fragile time that we currently do, we hear all sorts of ideas about how to improve wealth and economic stability, but none are as loud as those who want to cut taxes and hand everything over to private corporations. I think we can all say pretty safely how Mr. Verhoeven feels about that idea.

The Future Has a Silver Lining indeed.

The Future Has a Silver Lining indeed.

As much as I love the message and how its conveyed here, there’s an even greater message to be taken away from RoboCop, and it speaks to the strength of the human spirit. Murphy’s reclamation of his own body tells us that no matter how insurmountable the obstacles seem, no matter how much they pump you full of lead, no matter how much of your body they morph into a robot, they can’t change who you are; they can’t own you – not if you don’t let them! Human will and character is too strong to be broken even by the biggest, nastiest corporations.
Wow, well, sorry for getting so intense guys, but what can I say, RoboCop inspires intense emotions in me. I wish more movies were as brazen and bold as this one. I sincerely wonder how it’s possible that Peter Weller is not the mega superstar he deserves to be. Sure, half the movie he plays a helmeted cyborg, but nobody does it better! I know this is a common Schlock Wave refrain, but why would anyone dare to attempt to retell this story? It can’t possibly be told as well as it was here. Admittedly, I am curious to see what they’ve done in the reboot, mostly I’d like to see if it holds any of the same values as the original. Even if it isn’t a total disgrace, it is most definitely unnecessary. I firmly believe Verhoeven’s RoboCop can’t be improved upon – it is nearly, if not totally, perfect. I love it a whole hell of a lot. I am gushing, and for that I apologize. But god damn what a fine movie!  
11
Feb
14

Logan’s Run (1976)

We’ve all heard the phrase “life ends at thirty,” though I think none of us take it as seriously as the characters who inhabit the world of Logan’s Run. For them, life actually does end at thirty; but at least you get to go out in a blaze of glory. Once your life-clock hits its fourth decade, it’s off to Carrousel with you, where you wear an awesome bodysuit with flames on it, float up into the air and explode, all in the name of “Renewal.”

Carrousel: it's a blast. You're gonna love it.

Carrousel: it’s a blast. You’re gonna love it.

But, of course, there are some folks in this world who don’t believe in Renewal. They believe once you’re through with Carrousel, you’re just through. Toast. Curtains. So instead of go through with it, they run. The Establishment employs Sandmen to pursue and kill runners. One such Sandman is our hero, Logan (Michael York). He’s not the best at his job, but he’s okay enough. Perhaps that is why he is selected by the great computer to go undercover to find out where the hell all those runners have gotten off to. He’s expendable. And that’s when Logan’s perception of reality begins to crumble…

Stick 'em up, York!

Stick ’em up, York!

Ah, there is nothing like a good dystopian sci-fi flick to get you questioning social norms! The story isn’t so different from some others you’ve probably seen, but it does take some interesting turns along the way. I mean, I have to admit, the thought of a time-clock in the palm of your hand dictating whether or not you have the right to live or die is pretty frightening. Even worse is knowing that the all-knowing computer can advance your clock by as far along as it likes, all in the name of keeping the peace. Logan’s Run‘s message to its audience is pretty darn clear: when your government says it’s going to kill you at thirty for your own good, you probably should run!

Chokers are hot.

Chokers are hot.

 

All that sci-fi social commentary aside, Logan’s Run is a damn fine-lookin’ movie, and that’s not just because there’s only one old guy in it! The costumes in this film are pretty bomb; I mean, check out Jenny’s Ankh! That’s one thing you’ve got to hand to science fiction flicks of this vintage; they’ve got style. And that’s why I shake my head in sadness at the news (or, perhaps, non-news) that someone someday (maybe) might remake this movie. No matter who it ends up being, I have no doubt it will have about as much style as a burlap sack.

Am I too cynical?

15
Dec
13

Screamers (1995)

I <3 Peter Weller!

I ❤ Peter Weller!

Screamers sounds awesome: a science fiction flick based on Philip K. Dick with robots and post-apocalyptic war-zones starring Peter Weller? Sh’yeah, sign me up, right? Unfortunately the film itself isn’t as good as one would hope. That’s not to say it isn’t good, it just isn’t great.

As most science fiction plots are, it’s complicated. There’s a war on a mining planet, and both sides have just about exhausted their resources. Joe Hendricksson (Peter Weller) is lucky; his side created a pretty intense weapon that has kept them safe in their bunker: Autonomous Mobile Swords, or Screamers. Because, well, they scream right before they’re about to kill you.

An orphaned child; the perfect camouflage.

An orphaned child; the perfect camouflage.

The Screamers detect your heartbeat, and that’s when they strike. The only way to survive when they’re near you is by having a device on your body that blots out your heartbeat’s signal, so you become invisible to the screamers. Any enemies without this device will soon be dinner for the screamers.

Some stuff happens and Hendricksson is soon convinced he and his company have been left on the planet to die. He takes a fresh-faced, idiot-boy soldier with him while trekking to the enemy’s headquarters. While he’s out there, he finds some really weird shit, namely Screamers that have taken a completely different form. Has the other side learned from and improved upon their

Weller and Rubin, suited up and ready to go.

Weller and Rubin, suited up and ready to go.

technology? Or, have the Screamers evolved into new “life” forms of their own volition?

As I said, it’s complicated, and frankly I didn’t really follow it until my husband explained it to me. Science fiction plots are often a weakness of mine, unfortunately. So, anyway, I don’t see the sense in explaining the whole thing here because, well, that wouldn’t be so much fun for you if you decide to watch the movie. Anyway, a whole lot of people with credibility thought this movie was pretty okay. I agree, it’s okay, but really nothing more. I was a little irritated with the characters; they’re all pretty one-dimensional and, well, some of them are straight-up annoying. There’s also that 90’s-badass-chick thing going on with the female lead, Jessica (Jennifer Rubin), and I find that stuff pretty insufferable. But, if that’s sort of thing, this isn’t a bad way to go.

19
Apr
13

Castle in the Sky (1986)

I don’t really go in for Japanese animation all that much, except Speed Racer, so when we decided Castle in the Sky was the next movie on the list, I groaned and sighed, and settled in.

Sheeta floats on into town.

Sheeta floats on into town.

A girl named Sheeta is wanted by some pirates and government officials alike, but it isn’t until she floats down from an airship into a town that she finds out why: her crystal necklace is more than it seems, and will  endow its owner with untold riches and power. The necklace happens to originate from an island in the sky called Laputa, a place that Pazu, Sheeta’s new friend, is hellbent on proving exists: his father’s good name depends on it.  The two join forces in hopes of keeping Sheeta’s pursuers away while also, if they’re lucky, finding Laputa. On the way they encounter a bunch of strange stuff, like dilapidated robots and glowing rocks.

That is a cute robot. Am I right?

That is a cute robot. Am I right?

Well, it’s not that I disliked this movie, I just wasn’t impressed. I couldn’t take it seriously, what with the quivering eyes, the lame dubbing, and that pirate-lady that looks an awful lot like Pippi Longstocking 50 years later. I will say the robots were definitely awesome; I’d play with those robots. And some of it was cute, and kinda funny at parts, but I wasn’t really feeling it. I will admit I was probably not in the right mindset. Perhaps a second viewing would change my opinion, but I’m not so sure. This might just be one of those things that I don’t get.

Tell me that's not supposed to be Pippi Longstocking!

Tell me that’s not supposed to be Pippi Longstocking!

06
Mar
13

Millennium (1989)

Kris Kristofferson: Dreamy Steamboat

Kris Kristofferson: Dreamy Steamboat

In the interest of our sanity, this Cull* business will be coming to an end very soon. To be fair, though, a girl is pretty lucky when her housecleaning involves two Kris Kristofferson films. While Knights didn’t survive extermination, our second Kristofferson selection, Millennium, fares much better.

Kristofferson plays Bill Smith, a plane-crash investigator whose career consumes his life. While investigating a particularly troubling crash, he meets the strange and charming Louise Baltimore (Cheryl Ladd). Their first date turns into a sleepover, and the next morning Baltimore tries her

Sherman, your favorite robot, talks Louise down from the ledge.

Sherman, your favorite robot, talks Louise down from the ledge.

damndest to keep Smith from attending a press conference involving the crash, but Smith is too married to his job to miss it – or is he? Immediately after saying goodbye to Baltimore, Smith turns back to the hotel room – perhaps to stay with her all day and skip out on the conference, or maybe just to say goodbye a second time – but we never know, because mere seconds after Smith leaves the room, Baltimore is gone without a trace.

Kids in the Hall's own Scott Thompson

Kids in the Hall’s own Scott Thompson

Confounded by Baltimore’s disappearance as much as the plane crash he’s investigating, Smith stays on in a room full of wreckage, pondering the events of the last few days. While rummaging through the wreckage, he finds a very strange piece of equipment. Examining the curiosity, he stuns himself and cannot move. As he drops to the ground, futuristic women swoop in to steal the strange device, one of them looking a whole hell of a lot like Louise Baltimore.

The Face of the Future

The Face of the Future

What follows is a delightful and charming science fiction story involving robots, time-travel, a few Cronenberg alums and a cameo by Canada’s own Scott Thompson. I don’t want to say too much about the plot, because what I liked most about this film is how it  was revealed: slowly and from different points of view. I can’t help but compare this to Trancers, another adorable time-travel flick with a tough-but-lovable male lead. The two might make the perfect double-feature.

*Q and I have decided it’s time for a great cull; an early spring cleaning. We have a large number of movies we have not yet seen. Are these movies any good? This is the question we are out to answer. If it’s no good, out it goes.




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