Category: Sci Fi

NASA space station photo

While we have all been busy here on Earth, the international assemblage of astronauts on the International Space Station have been moving on with their scheduled work week far up and away in Earth’s orbit.  The Expedition 45 crew has been busy this month with biomedical science, Cygnus mission preparations, and routine maintenance.

But this crew is not above letting its fanboy flag fly, donning the Jedi Knight look of Obi-Wan Kenobi, complete with lightsabers, for their NASA expedition poster.  What better way to keep the tie between science fiction and science fact?  You often hear about how many astronauts and NASA engineers and crew were influenced by Star Trek, but clearly Star Wars must have had a similar influence.

Expedition 45 includes flight Engineers Kjell Lindgren and Kimiya Yui, who both have been in space for more than 100 days.  Yui has been working on experiment hardware inside Japan’s Kibo lab module.  Lindgren is conducting research on growing food in space for the Veggie botany experiment.  Commander Scott Kelly is prepping for the December arrival of the Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo craft. Continue reading

Arnold Terminator Genisys

Few sci-fi films are as revered as James Cameron’s Terminator and Terminator II: Judgment Day. Judgment Day is regarded by many as one of the greatest sequels to any movie ever made.  Both films made American Film Institute lists and are the kind of movies we can watch hundreds of times and still keep enjoying them.  Two sequels followed, no longer under the direction of Cameron, Terminator III: Rise of the Machines, a worthy but lesser sequel reviewed at here, and the far, far lesser Terminator: Salvation.  So coming into the fourth sequel this past summer with the opening of director Alan Taylor’s Terminator Genisys, expectations by many were low.  But fans of sci-fi and borgs knew a winner when they saw it.

Somehow Terminator Genisys manages to be not only good, but great, and not only that, it manages to equal the punch and excitement of both Terminator and Terminator II.  A pretty big feat that holds its own even off the big screen on the newly released 3D Blu-ray, DVD, and Ultraviolet releases available this month.

Terminator Genisys cast

That’s right, if you love the universe of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s sometimes villain, sometimes hero Terminator T-800, you’re going to love this film, which is not only loyal to James Cameron’s originals, it flat-out amps up the sci-fi and takes every element that made the earlier films great and expands them into new, exciting places.  This includes time travel, big action, story twists, casting, acting, and all the cybernetic tech you could hope for.  Adhering to a carefully laid out plan covering two parallel timelines (that we know of), we revisit the first Terminator trip to 1984 and learn about two other time jumps that illustrate Kyle Reese’s important line from the first movie: “The future is not set.  There is no fate but what we make for ourselves.”   In fact in Reese’s first conversation with Sarah he made the same point, calling her future “one possible future.”  These seeds planted in the original allow this new story to take off.

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Finn in Falcon

Just stop watching the Internet, TV, movie trailers.  Stop–if you don’t want to see most of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in snippets before the movie premieres next month.  The cartoon network DisneyXD has released a preview of its own this weekend, sneaking in more footage of the First Order (the new bad guys) and the Resistance (the new good guys).

Watch the new preview, after the break, if you dare!  But don’t expect to find any actual spoilers if you’ve been watching all the other movie and TV trailers and teasers released this year.

Rey Falcon

New scenes in this preview feature Finn, Rey and the new villain General Hux.

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Sci-Fi Block Doctor Who

Catching up with the fun, genre-tailored grab bags like Loot Crate and Comic Con Box, two new box services beginning soon will mean you will have four major monthly genre-themed services to choose from.  We reviewed past Loot Crate and Wizard World’s Comic Con Box offerings earlier at here.  Our conclusion from a review of a few months of each of those boxes was that these may be for you depending on (1) how much you want to spend, (2) whether you like surprises, and (3) whether you have a broad interest in genre swag.

Friends we know who regularly subscribe to these box services tend to trade or sell items, or have friends of different interests they can give items to as gifts.  You can save money by committing to three months at a time, with Loot Crate this gets you a discount, and with Comic Con Box you can get an extra, exclusive variant comic book.  The biggest draw of box services generally is the exclusive swag.  Comic Con Box includes random gifts like autographed photos.  The two latest boxes, Nerd Block’s Sci-Fi Block and Funko’s Star Wars themed Smuggler’s Bounty also stress the exclusive swag that will be coming to their subscribers.

Smugglers Bounty

So what will you get?  It’s a surprise–You don’t find out until the box arrives.  But, the types of content in the boxes will be similar.  T-shirts, action figures, toys, comics, you name it, it might be included–as long as it can fit in the shipping box.

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Just like I could make the case that The Empire Strikes Back is the best film of the saga, I could make a similar argument for the superiority of John Williams’s stunning score for The Empire Strikes Back.  And no version of that soundtrack surpasses the original 1980 two-disc vinyl set, which hasn’t been available in its original version for literally decades.  Thanks to Sony Classical, the original soundtrack for not only that film is coming back, all six original soundtracks are returning to store shelves in 2016 in CD, digital, and yes, good ol’ vinyl formats.

I still have my vinyl two-disc LP sets for both Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, and they still play with the clarity and punch as they did in the late 1970s and early 1980s on the same 1950s Magnavox record player I first played them on.  If you’re not into the vinyl scene, no worries, just pick these up in one of the other formats.ESB vinyl 1980 reverse

As to The Empire Strikes Back soundtrack, I go back and forth between Side Two and Side Three as being the best of the set.  Side Two begins with the epic Darth Vader theme in The Imperial March and ends with the menacing Hoth assault in The Battle in the Snow.  With Side Three probably the most exciting of any of John Williams works is The Asteroid Field followed by the sweeping Bespin arrival theme in The City in the Clouds.  Throughout all four discs are cues from the Star Wars main theme, the haunting Yoda theme, and the touching Han and Leia theme.  As with the prior release of the Star Wars soundtrack in a two-vinyl set, the tracks for the original 1980 release of The Empire Strikes Back are not presented sequentially, and masterfully they are instead included in a very cohesive and musical order crafted for each album.  The CD versions of The Empire Strikes Back released and re-released in the 1990s are in sequential order, yet they don’t provide the complete musicality of sound experience as the original vinyls.

SW box set CDs

Sony Classical announced they’ll reissue the six soundtracks January 8, 2016 (or about the time you’ve seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens for the tenth time) in three editions: Star Wars: The Ultimate Vinyl CollectionStar Wars: The Ultimate Soundtrack Edition, and Star Wars: The Ultimate Digital Collection.  Here are the details:

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Tomorrowland still

Review by C.J. Bunce

There is plenty to like about The Incredibles’ director Brad Bird’s 2015 release, Tomorrowland, now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital media.  Tomorrowland has a great, positive message about the potential of thinkers and dreamers, and it showcases a beautiful future world, but somehow it just doesn’t dazzle like it could.  Still, enough positive vibes and ideas are steeped into this film that the right person watching this movie will find it to be inspirational.

One of the best features is a decommissioned robot named Athena (that we’d label an excellent borg except we’re not sure biological elements or living matter may be part of her) played by young actress Raffey Cassidy (Cassidy played the daughter Beatrice in Season One of Mr. Selfridge).  In every scene she is so perfect in her role that her diction and appearance might convince you she will be shown later as an adult played by Emily Blunt (that doesn’t happen, but she’s a dead ringer).

Sadly Tomorrowland struggles with what kind of movie it wants to be.  Is this a fantasy or science fiction movie, or both?  Visually the Tomorrowland parallel world scenes feel much like the mix of sci-fi and fantasy from classic Flash Gordon–a great component of the movie watching experience.  But you must watch more than two-thirds of the film before being able to grasp a clear plot, and get fully immersed in that other world.  To get where the story is trying to get plenty of world building is apparently required.  It’s unfortunate because Tomorrowland couldn’t address a more interesting subject:  Why didn’t the future we envisioned 60 years ago come to pass? (Where are our jet packs?!)

Raffey Cassidy Tomorrowland

It’s a question science fiction writers wrestle with all the time: If I am going to predict a future technology or development, how many years from now should I say it will be achieved?  And will it come about at all at any time?  If you peg the breakthrough in your own lifetime, you may be left to face criticism when that date finally arrives.  See Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, James Cameron’s Terminator series, all of those Philip K. Dick novel adaptations, and more recently, Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis’s Back to the Future II predictions–many got elements of the future right, but many didn’t.

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Apocalypse Star Wars

For a guy who doesn’t want anyone knowing the secrets of Star Wars: The Force Awakens before its release next month, J.J. Abrams sure keeps releasing more and more footage of the film.  This time he released a trailer of scenes previously not released in the United States, lending much credence to story plotlines fans have guessed about since the release of the last and supposedly final American trailer.

The trouble is, spoilers or not, we just can’t stop watching whatever Disney and Lucasfilm throw at us.  Nobody wants to watch the movie before we see it in theaters, but they just keeping baiting us, don’t they?

Who is Daisy Ridley’s character Rey and where does she fit into the greater Star Wars saga story?  Why are she and Darth Vader-inspired villain Kylo Ren the focal point of the next trilogy?  Is Captain Phasma really the next Boba Fett–the next coolest customer in the galaxy?  And will Chewbacca be the real hero of Episode VII?


And is this just Abrams making his take on Apocalypse Now?  It’s impossible that Episode VII will fare as well as the original Star Wars or The Empire Strikes Back, but we’ve already seen enough to make us think Episode VII has the potential to be better than Return of the Jedi.

Check out–or don’t–this international trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens:

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Princess Leia poster Han Solo poster

So what is the message with this week’s release of the five individual character posters for Star Wars: The Force Awakens?  Or is there one?

The big question everyone is asking:  Where is Luke Skywalker?

Finn poster Rey poster

Is Mark Hamill even in much of the first of the new trilogy movies?  And up close doesn’t that staff held by Rey, the young female lead character in the movie, look like it has some components from a lightsaber?

And hey, Han Solo, ever think of upgrading your sidearm?

There is so much speculation this is another big family affair–what if we’re all wrong?  What if Kylo Ren and Captain Phasma are Han and Leia’s long lost twins?

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Star Wars Cover Girl

CBS is finally taking a cue from Disney.  Disney, digging in its heels every which way it can to exploit its new Star Wars property, may have finally awakened CBS, which holds the Star Trek television rights.  While any new Star Trek on the TV front has been idle since 2005, Star Wars is licensing everything it can to make major money from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, planning more tie-in movies, and going crazy with product placements, including this commercial we just noticed this week:

And this one for Kraft–for some reason any food can go with Star Wars:

Sure–Paramount has released two major Star Trek movies with another on its way next summer, but the core of Star Trek has always been about television, and CBS hasn’t remotely touched on all the opportunities available for a brand like Star Trek.  At long last, CBS is getting off the dime and beginning to try to make some money from its stagnant TV brand opportunity, too, by creating a new Star Trek TV series more than a decade after the end of the most recent Star Trek show, Enterprise. 

What do we know?  Not much.  Only what was issued in the below press release:

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Ridiculous 6

Today we have three previews for coming theatrical releases of the comedy variety.  Two of them hail from two of the most financially successful former Saturday Night Live cast members, and one a coming-of-age zombie flick full of young actors.  Are they all dumb comedies, or will any of them break through the pack and be worth the ticket price?

The first film comes from Adam Sandler’s production company and will be a Netflix release.  It’s a Western comedy–a rare genre appearance for audiences–with a large cast that might make you think of big cast pieces of years past like Airplane!  Along with Sandler, The Ridiculous 6 stars Steve Buscemi, Terry Crews, Norm MacDonald, Danny Trejo, Will Forte, Luke Wilson, Steve Zahn, David Spade, Rob Schneider, Chris Parnell, John Turturro, Jon Lovitz, and Vanilla Ice.  That’s a lot of former SNL cast members!


The stars of the hilarious comedy The Other Guys are back.  Will Farrell, the most successful SNL actor since Eddie Murphy, and along with Sandler one of the big three of the box office grossing SNL elite shares billing again with one of our favorite actors, the versatile Mark Wahlberg, in Daddy’s Home.  Farrell is a step-dad and must contend with his wife’s tougher and cooler ex-husband, played by Wahlberg.  This is the film widely reported on earlier this year where Farrell and crew broke in on an actual basketball game and seemingly drunk Farrell beaned a dance group gal in the face (no worries, she was a stunt woman in on the gag).  Definitely one for the Farrell and Wahlberg fans out there.

Zombie Scouts

Finally, The Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is the latest zombie flick.  It’s a comedy and coming of age movie, but also seems like it has a bit of Steven Spielberg’s Super 8 meets American Pie.  Definitely a strange entry, it features a slate of young actors including Arnold’s son Patrick Schwarzenegger, plus comedic actors Cloris Leachman and David Koechner.

Here are the trailers:

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