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Tag Archive: Arrival


Review by C.J. Bunce

Both were pulled from Special Forces units.  Dakota Prentiss is an ex-Ranger.  She’s tough, rough, crude, and been through it all.  Then new worker Matt Salem is brought onto her security team.  He’s ex-Navy SEAL and she can’t help falling for him, something she’s never quite had time for with her lifetime committed to always fulfilling the mission, and now she’s bound herself for life to a private corporation where you keep secrets or you die.  In Nat Cassidy’s novelization of Mac Rogers’ dramatic podcast series, Steal the Stars, we get a first person account of bad choices that only get worse from Dakota aka “Dak” in a science fiction noir style that takes place on an Earth where corporations have gained far too much power and the CEO of one giant company has the power over life and death.

And it’s also a heist story.  Dak determines the only way out of the mess she has gotten into by violating company fraternization policy with Matt is to steal the very thing her team is guarding–a UFO that crashed a decade ago and the alien inside that may or may not be dead–and sell these secrets to China.  Dak is every bit the tough and in-charge leader like Hannah-John Kamen’s Dutch in the Syfy series Killjoys, including her ability for falling for the next guy who joins her team.  The company follows rigorous protocols in their own variation on Warehouse 13 to maintain the safety of the UFO and its harp-shaped power drive, which they soon learn has power so great whoever controls it could control everything.  The alien inside, called Moss for its slowly diminishing moss-like covering, simply stares off into nothing as if dead.  But why does he still seem to have body heat?

Another entry from The X-Files?  Sure.  It’s also heavily influenced by other alien arrival stories, especially the most recent Oscar-winning film about first contact, 2016’s Arrival, with its focus on the process and set-up for quarantining such a discovery.  Also a mash-up of They Live and Bonnie and Clyde and even Philip K. Dick’s short story “Paycheck,” Steal the Stars pulls bits and pieces of sci-fi from all angles to create a compelling read that will keep you onboard for all of its 416 pages.

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This week the Saturn Awards crowned the best of genre film and television, selecting the best works on the screen for the 43rd year.  As with last year’s selections, although the start and end dates vary from our own calendar year list, this year’s winners aligned in the major categories with our own borg.com picks of the Best of 2016 from film and television.  If the Academy Awards, Golden Globes, Emmys, and all those other award recognitions leave you wanting, you can always depend on the Saturn Awards to come through for genre fans.

So we’re happy to see the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films name Rogue One: A Star Wars Story as Best Science Fiction Film, Best Direction in a Film (Gareth Edwards) and Best Film Visual/Special Effects (John Knoll, Mohen Leo, Hal Hickel, Neil Corbould), Doctor Strange as Best Comic-to-Film Motion Picture and Tilda Swinton for Best Supporting Actress in a Film, and Star Trek Beyond for Best Film Make-up (Monica Huppert and Joel Harlow) Star of our favorite superhero sequence of 2016, Spider-man Tom Holland was awarded Best Performance by a Younger Actor for Captain America: Civil War.  In the television categories, Riverdale was named Best Action/Thriller TV Series and star KJ Apa won The Breakthrough Performance Award for his work as the iconic comic book character Archie Andrews.*  The Best New Media TV Series was a tie, shared between Stranger Things and Marvel’s Luke Cageand Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown was named Best Younger Actor on Television.  Even a borg.com Hall of Famer won major kudos this year, Six Million Dollar Man actor Lee Majors was awarded The Life Career Award.  We couldn’t agree more with all these selections.

Other works we liked last year that won honors included 10 Cloverfield Lane for Best Thriller Film, Best Actress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and Best Supporting Actor (John Goodman), Deadpool for Best Actor (Ryan Reynolds), Arrival for Best Film Screenplay (Eric Heisserer), and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them for Best Film Costume (Colleen Atwood).

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Review by C.J. Bunce

A diehard science fiction moviegoer will probably find nothing new in last year’s nominee for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Arrival.  Nearly every minute of the film can be seen in countless episodes of science fiction television.  But it is the next drama cloaked in science fiction dress, trying to one-up Interstellar, Gravity, and Contact.  Following the Michael Crichton stylebook, Arrival gives us a problem (terrifying, giant squid-like, alien monsters referred to as heptapods we cannot yet understand) and brings in a team of experts to work to solve that problem.  The experts are linguist Dr. Louise Banks, played by Amy Adams, and physicist Dr. Ian Donnelly, played by Jeremy Renner.  And that’s all–no other brilliant scientists play any role.  From a storytelling angle this allows more of a focus on the two characters, primarily Banks, but it also defies belief that one of twelve Earth-visiting space monolith ships is in the U.S. and only a M*A*S*H unit full of people are there to find the solution.  Those that are present are canned, stupid government wonks, including an intermediary military officer played by Forest Whitaker and others who shout a lot and want to bomb the aliens.  It all makes you want to cheer for the aliens.

To its credit Arrival deals head on with what is surprisingly one of the least pursued tropes in science fiction: communication with the aliens.

Every major sci-fi franchise tells us these aliens will be humanoid, but what if they aren’t?  Actually communicating with other beings once we have that first alien encounter has been seen from time to time, the best in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Darmok.  And who can forget those musical notes of Close Encounters of the Third Kind?  Most of Star Trek, and other sci-fi, circumvents the communication issue with the story device of a universal translator or the equivalent, so the conflict of Arrival is refreshing.  Unfortunately the pursuit of the problem in Arrival could have been more interesting and compelling.  Instead the filmmakers made the choice to break away frequently, delving back and forth into an emotional character study.

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