Tag Archive: Minority Report


Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s a fantastic sci-fi series with a stellar cast and a story and production values that rival the original Blade Runner and its 2017 sequel: Altered Carbon is based on Richard K. Morgan’s novel of the same name, a story about Takeshi Kovacs, a future soldier in a world where science has developed a hard drive called a “stack” that is implanted in humans’ necks, allowing our memories to be uploaded to storage and replanted over and over so they seemingly can live forever, even in new bodies.  That conceit allows Kovacs and other characters to be played by any number of actors, which could allow the series to run forever much as Doctor Who’s regeneration mechanism allows replacement Doctors.  Originally launched on Netflix in 2018, Altered Carbon has been extended for a second season, with filming underway last year, and viewers should expected a second season trailer and 2020 air date any day.  Which means fans of the Syd Mead, Ridley Scott, and Philip K. Dick brand of futurism, and all things borg, should catch up on the first season now.  What does it mean to be human, and how much can you shed away and replace with technology and still retain the “self”?  Altered Carbon tackles the philosophical questions The Matrix film series tried to answer.

Kovacs, played by several actors (more on that below), is a 300-year-old soldier.  As a seasoned fighter 250 years ago he was the last of a mercenary group called the Envoys, leading a rebellion against the new world order.  Kovacs’s stack is shelved for the intervening 250 years until one of the wealthiest men alive, Laurens Bancroft, played by James Purefoy (an actor who has been runner up for the James Bond film roles and appeared in A Knight’s Tale and The Following), buys his stack and puts it in a new body or “sleeve,” giving Kovacs the opportunity to live anew if he agrees to find Bancroft’s killer.  This is a bleak world, filled with virtual reality and virtual sex, body swapping and trafficking, and the kind of tech noir, bleak, dystopian realm seen in Strange Days, A Scanner Darkly, Minority Report, Ready Player One, The Running Man, Brazil, Total Recall, with the violence of A Clockwork Orange, but maybe not so hopeless as in Elysium, Mad Max, Gattaca, Terminator, and Dredd.  

The series, which has a slow start and doesn’t kick into high gear until the second episode, also has the John Carpenter Escape from New York vibe but with Blade Runner visuals and effects, plus the creative elements of Total Recall that made for some unexpected surprises.  Altered Carbon is a close match to RoboCop as future science and technology goes, so it’s easy to see why the casting agents brought along RoboCop remake star Joel Kinnaman as Kovacs’ primary sleeve in the first season.  This sleeve was last owned by a cop killed in duty named Ryker.  Ryker’s partner, Kristin Ortega, played by Mexican actress Martha Higareda (McFarland USA, Royal Pains), takes on the role of the season’s co-lead, struggling as she sees her old partner’s body and acting to protect his sleeve, trying to solve the murder of Bancroft, and uncovering the bad cops in the bureau.  Ortega is a badass character in a small package who gets in and out of several fights that would take down anyone else in any other story, and she is the high point of the series–at one point an incident results in a loss of an arm, soon replaced by a powerful cybernetic arm.  An interesting twist is that her family are Catholics, and in this future Catholics don’t believe in the stacks, which means once they die they are dead forever.  This sets up one of the more interesting plot threads.  If it seems like the series has a lot going on, that’s because it does. But it all comes together in a satisfying way in the final episodes.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

M.F. Gibson′s new novel Babylon Twins doesn’t seem to be targeted for the Young Adult section of the bookstore, but it should be.  Following a pair of twins who share a secret language whose lives take a turn as a big pharma-virus, artificial intelligence experiment, and robot war collide to take down and remake civilization.  The novel fits well with Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games novels and would make a good follow-up for fans of the series, especially older teens.  More focused on their survival in a Creek Stewart sort of way (move along if you can’t stomach animal hunting for survival purposes), these girls don’t ever get the kind of gourmet food the competitors land in The Hunger Games. We meet the girls both when they’re young and later as young adults, and their lack of contacts and traditional educational resources keep their dialogue and needs more child-like than adult.

The best comparison to this story of dystopian, post-apocalyptic sci-fi is the classic 1970s sci-fi film Logan’s Run.  Like the Runners of that story, Clo and El live the best they can after escaping the new norm thanks to their mother, but when their mother leaves their forest hovel they decide to take their brother and return to the city to find her, ten years after the “end of the world.”  This is far more classic sci-fi than zombie horror, a good entry point for young adult readers dabbling into the short stories and novels of Philip K. Dick (like Minority Report) and Harlan Ellison’s A Boy and His Dog.  Encounters with freakish new lifeforms that aren’t what they seem as found in classic sci-fi like Logan’s Run or Beneath the Planet of the Apes combine with a setting sharing a lot with that of Dawn/Rise/War of the Planet of the Apes, or the Jessica Chastain movie Mama (without that movie’s kind of horror).

Readers of John Christopher’s Tripods series will also see parallels in Babylon Twins Gibson’s wooded home for the girls conjures a loneliness oddly akin to Christopher McCandless’s grim solo journey in Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild, yet their path is much different.  Girls with younger brothers may particularly love the book, as the older sisters really never give the poor little brother a break across the entire story, including chastising him, berating him as bigger sisters do, and even tying him up and throwing him in the car at one point.  It’s all written with a dose of humor.  And the youthful voice of the narrator and characters reveals a coming of age story for the twins, sometimes dipping into the stuff of middle grade stories from Judy Blume.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Everything’s connected.  Everything’s vulnerable.

The visionary behind the groundbreaking 1997 science fiction film Gattaca has at last delivered his next worthy sci-fi follow-up.  The direct-to-Netflix movie Anon is equal parts future crime and noir detective thriller.  It stars Clive Owen (Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Children of Men, Sin City) and Colm Feore (Thor, The Chronicles of Riddick, Paycheck) as police detectives in a near-future Earth where smart phone and computer technology has merged with the mind.  Technology and science have evolved to allow humans to instantly identify and search their minds and a database shared with everyone as they move through their day–as if Google Glass tech was inside a contact lens wired to the brain.  Written, produced, and directed by Andrew Niccol, writer/director of Gattaca and writer of The Truman Show, Anon features a police detective nicely synthesizing Rick Deckard, Frank Bullitt, and Dirty Harry Callahan.  Only an actor as unique as Clive Owen could pull that off.

With a world similar to Gattaca–but a colder, stark, and concrete-filled version of a rigid, totalitarian future close to that of the Prime side in the world of the Starz series Counterpart–telling lies has become a thing of the past.  The detectives must track down an unidentifiable woman, the anonymous hacker of the title played by Amanda Seyfried (Veronica Mars, Ted 2, Mamma Mia!), sought as the criminal behind a string of murders.  This hacker can erase memories and replace real thoughts with replaced images, and we see the best example of this as Owen’s detective pursues the hacker in a busy subway.  Oddly, this dystopia doesn’t feel as horrible as that of Mad Max: Fury Road, or Blade Runner, or Terminator.  It’s just not that far removed from the wired life of today.  Which should be enough of a cautionary warning.

Stark but slick and cool like The Adjustment Bureau, not only the visuals of Anon but the music is haunting and cold, thanks to an inspired score from Christophe Beck (Ant-Man, Edge of Tomorrow, Buffy the Vampire Slayer).  Surreal camera angles and the use of shadow firmly plant the audience in this future thanks to cinematographer Amir Mokri, and you can credit production designer Philip Ivey (District 9, Elysium) and art director Aleksandra Marinkovich (Crimson Peak, Kick-Ass 2, Total Recall) for a stunning, new vision that leaves behind tech noir for something fresh and different.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Much of the best science fiction doesn’t leave us with memorable or lovable characters so much as incredible, imaginative ideas, and prescient or prophetic visions.  When you look to science fiction’s past, examples can be found throughout the works of H.G. Wells, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Philip K. Dick, and Ray Bradbury.  Great concepts abound, like Wells’ time travel, Mary Shelley stretching the bounds–and horrors–of medical science, Dick always wrestling with the perils and annoyances of technology, and Michael Crichton finding ways to use science to change the future.  Robert J. Sawyer is a current science fiction author building on the ideas of the past, and like all of the above writers who researched the real science behind their characters, he delves deep into his subjects.  In his novel Quantum Night, now available in paperback, he has with surgical precision stitched together a tale of modern truths and horrors, bundled in a story pressing the bounds of psychology and quantum theory to explain why the world may seem to be falling apart, and offering one way to try to repair it.

In a very educational way, Quantum Night is also a refresher in Psychology 101.  Sawyer, one of only three science fiction writers ever to have won the trifecta of writing awards (the Hugo, the Nebula, and the Campbell), references every major theory and experiment from college days along with enough background in quantum theory to support a compelling thriller.  By book’s end you may find yourself staring at strangers and questioning their level of consciousness, conscience, and psychopathy.  You may be sitting next to a psychopathic individual right now, or someone with a mind that may be even more gut-wrenching to discover.  Written in 2015 and taking place in the not-so-distant future, Russian President Vladimir Putin readies to fire nuclear weapons on the United States.  A future U.S. President gets Roe v. Wade overturned, has gotten his country to turn on immigrants and then invades Canada, led by its first Muslim prime minister (here Sawyer predicts the future of the current real-life Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi), purportedly so the U.S. can secure Canada’s cities when the country no longer is able to control the flow of terrorists.

The story follows a professor of psychology who also serves as an expert witness to defend criminals who have proven to be psychopathic on both established and modern psychopathy tests.  In the latest case he is reminded of his own past on cross-examination–a past he refuses to believe.  As he re-traces his memories he learns his volunteering for psychology experiments in college resulted in six months of erased memories.  And it gets worse–his mind was altered.  Readers encounter a pair of scientists in the past, trying to hone in on those elements of the mind that shape how we think.  The protagonist encounters a lover from his college days who is also in the field, and their relationship and her relationship with her daughter and her brother (now 20 years in a coma), could dictate the fate of everyone’s future with a high-tech tuning fork “sonic screwdriver”-inspired device and one of the 40 giant, real-world synchrotrons.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

As much as you may hear general moviegoers asking if we may be near the end of the Alien franchise–and earlier this month Alien director Ridley Scott said as much, that the franchise has basically “run out”–you probably won’t hear that from fans of Alien who keep coming back for more.  But no worry: two future movies are expected from the franchise.  Along the way tie-in authors continue to expand the universe before and after the first film that premiered way back in 1979.  The best of these so far is arguably Tim Lebbon’s Alien: Out of the Shadows (reviewed here at borg.com along with an interview with the author here).  In that novel Lebbon cleverly intercut between films a new tale of Ellen Ripley encountering xenomorphs again.  Earlier this year we reviewed an anthology, Alien: Bug Hunt here, and a new interactive in-world book in the Alien universe will be reviewed here soon.  Ridley Scott returned to direct another film in the series this year with Alien: Covenant, and a new tie-in novel bridges the gap between 2012’s Prometheus and Covenant.  Titled Alien: Covenant–Origins, it features the return of one of fandom’s favorite writers, Alan Dean Foster, and readers will find the story completely unexpected.

Since the 1970s Foster has written famous science fiction expansion stories that brought classic films home to audiences before the days of home video, including the novelization of the original Star Wars and the first Star Trek tie-ins.  His success with those would lead him to write the novelizations of the first three Alien films and Alien: Covenant, Terminator: Salvation, The Chronicles of Riddick, the first two Transformers movies, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Star Trek (2009), Star Trek Into Darkness, adding to a catalog of books that include The Thing, The Black Hole, Outland, The Last Starfighter, Starman, and AlienNation.  So Foster knows the Alien world well and with Alien: Covenant–Origins, Foster looks beyond the monstrous xenomorphs of the franchise to the political and corporate machinations behind the first effort to colonize outer space by Earthlings.  Springboarding off what we can imagine to be a Michael Crichton’s Rising Sun-inspired corporate takeover of CEO Peter Weyland’s tech company by competitor Hideo Yutani after the events of Prometheus find Weyland lost in space, we encounter the new Weyland-Yutani Corp. as it prepares to send a ship full of colonists to habitable planet Origae-6.  But on Earth the company first encounters espionage, intrigue, and sabotage, earthbound topics wrestled with similarly in Carl Sagan’s classic novel Contact. 

More action-thriller than sci-fi, Foster plants us into a mad dash to get the Covenant into space, with Yutani’s daughter kidnapped, assassination attempts, and a strange faction bombarding the company at every step to stop all efforts to go into space to avoid what one human is foreseeing as an invasion of horrible alien demons in Earth’s future if Weyland-Yutani proceeds with its flight.  It’s the same warning Sagan and NASA encountered from members of the public when the United States sent two Voyager space probes to the edge of the galaxy and beyond in the 1970s–what if aliens find us and they’re not so friendly?

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Twelve Days is Steven Barnes’ latest sci-fi novel, an urban thriller delving into the evolution of the human brain.  Olympia Dorsey is a single mother of two, working for an Atlanta news outlet.  Her son Hannibal is autistic, and Olympia has been called into his school where they suggest sending her son to a better center for his care.  The center, a spiritual headquarters shrouded in Indian mysticism and nestled in the mountains, sounds too good to be true.  So she brings along her ex-boyfriend neighbor in their first visit to meet a Doctor Strange-esque mystic and martial arts expert who uses her influence and charisma to convince them she has the place for Hannibal’s care, evening promising a complete turnaround for the child in ten days.  Barnes’ crafts a slowly-building story where Olympia, desperate to improve the life of her autistic child, allows herself to be reeled in.

Olympia’s boyfriend Terry is ex-military, and had been plotting a jewel heist with his old military pals, but after his confrontation with the mystic he is somehow changed.  Can he make a clean break from his own criminal enterprise?   What is the motivation of this cult?  Influence?  Money?  Power?  Revenge?  Is the threatened apocalypse in only twelve days real or only a distraction?  And can Olympia get out before it’s too late?

Not like even the typical cult, the mystical mountain facility evokes the frightening Jefferson Institute of Robin Cook’s Coma, only here the victim’s organs aren’t harvested for money.  Here the victims are used as brainwashed agents to use their brainwaves to kill people far away, when submerged in a chamber not unlike that of Philip K. Dick’s Minority Report.  It’s when the science fiction begins that Twelve Days kicks in.  Borrowing from the ideas of Joseph Ruben’s 1984 film Dreamscape, Twelve Days presents the most unusual of assassination tools to eliminate all the members of an anonymously leaked “Death List”–a dead pool list that includes both the world’s most wanted criminals, but also its leaders.  Each is being systematically eliminated, and even more are projected to die within twelve days.

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Minority Report Fox

Minority Report, the Tom Cruise movie directed by Steven Spielberg and based on the short story by Philip K. Dick is getting its own sequel in the form of a television series this Fall.  Spielberg’s adaptation was very rich in cutting edge special effects, effects that still stand up well 13 years after the film’s release in 2002, including a rich and dense transportation system of flying motor-vehicles and cycles, spider-robots, floating computer 3D “windows” that we now use on our smartphones every day.

Based on the first preview released by Fox, shown below, the new TV series doesn’t appear to have the budget for all that, instead showing only sporadic bits of a future world that reminds us of Marty McFly’s future in Back to the Future.  It’s a sequel, taking place 10 years after the end of Precrime in the film.  The story it follows is intriguing.  Instead of following any lead character from the movie, it will focus on one of the precogs–those three telepathic humans whose minds saw the future and allowed Precrime to exist–predicting and preventing crimes before they happen.

Precog Minority Report Fox

The series stars Stark Sands (Inside Llewyn Davis) as that precog, along with Meagan Good (Deception), Wilmer Valderrama (That ’70s Show, Awake, From Dusk Til Dawn), Laura Regan (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Burn Notice, Everwood, Mad Men), and Li Jun Li (The Following). 

Check out an extended preview for Minority Report, followed by a behind the scenes look at the show:

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predestination-poster01-predestination-poster-2

Finally the Australian film Predestination will be making it to the States.  The Aussie Spierig Brothers direct this loose adaptation of Robert A. Heinlein’s short story “All You Zombies.”  Bringing some genre street cred to this independent film is Gattaca’s Ethan Hawke as the lead.  Hawke is a time travel agent in the business of preventing crimes before they happen, and in good film noir fashion he is on his final case to hunt down that one criminal who got away.

If the plot sounds familiar, it should.  Predestination is just the latest entry in the sci-fi time travel trope, in the vein of the Philip K. Dick inspired films The Adjustment Bureau, Paycheck, and Minority Report, and the Bruce Willis/Emily Blunt rollercoaster ride Looper.

predestination

Predestination was filmed in Melbourne, and comes from that same stylized sci-fi tradition that brought us the cool post-apocalypse film The Quiet Earth.  Released in Australia back on August 28, 2014, it finally has a U.S. release date.

After the break, check out the trailer for Predestination:

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Judge Dredd Year one cover Issue 1

A new Year One comic book series hits newsstands today.  IDW Publishing, who now holds the comic book license to the Judge Dredd franchise once held by DC Comics and originally published in the UK in 1977, begins anew with Judge Dredd’s earliest days in Issue #1 of Judge Dredd Year One, released today and previewed here at borg.com below.

It’s the year 2080 and twenty-three juveniles “juves” begin exhibiting strange “psi-powers” or psychic abilities.  First a teenage boy becomes angry and is able to levitate.  A baby begins controlling toys and making them float in mid-air.  A street thug spirits a man off the roof of a building.  And on the “Larry Hagman Freeway” (in Dallas, Texas, I presume) Judge Dredd first appears in hot pursuit.  And another child emerges with strange powers of telekinesis.

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Speaking of yesterday’s discussion of Cybermen and The Borg, another well known borg sci-fi character was the subject of a New York Times article this week:  RoboCop is being resurrected for the big screen this year, one of several remakes of 1980s properties, such as 21 Jump Street and Dirty Dancing, coming soon to a theater near you.

Unfortunately there is not much information yet released, especially no photos yet of the police uniform for the 2013 RoboCop production.  Peter Weller, who we learned this year will be featured in the next Star Trek movie, originally dawned the steel armor of the downed cop who, like the Bionic Man, was rebuilt to fight the forces of evil in the U.S.  The original costume is instantly recognizable, but early word from production is that we will see a very different police armor uniform for the new RoboCop.

Although it is not quite as cool as the original RoboCop, I am a fan of the Iowa State Patrol uniform worn by the officer hunting down a young James T. Kirk in the future Riverside, Iowa in Star Trek 2009:

I’m still not sure if that was a good protective outfit for a human cop, or whether that android face mask reflects an actual android, or this was meant to be a cyborg creation.  Either way, it’s a pretty good outfit.

Years ago Academy Award winners Sylvester Stallone and Sandra Bullock showed us the prim and proper cops of the future city of San Angeles, where we learned “In the future, all restaurants are Taco Bell.”

My fellow Trekkies will recognize those belts being re-used in the Mirror Universe of the Enterprise TV series by evil Captain Archer & Co.  These guys looked believable.  But no armor!

And this year’s coming remake of Total Recall features another slick looking future cop:

Note that the new Total Recall takes no obvious design queues from Paul Verhoeven’s original Total Recall.  So it should be no surprise if the new RoboCop takes no design queues from Verhoeven’s RoboCop.  Verhoeven’s RoboCop was inspired by the future cop from the comic book 2000 A.D., Judge Dredd, and Verhoeven’s RoboCop has been interpreted as a retelling of sorts of the original Judge Dredd story because of several common themes, and, of course, the mask.  Although the Sylvester Stallone future cop in Judge Dredd didn’t adhere totally to the original story, he did have a mask, but his uniform was a bit strange:

Future cops are definitely “in” these days.  Karl Urban (Bones in Star Trek 2009, Eomer in Lord of the Rings, Xena, Bourne Supremacy, Chronicles of Riddick) will be starring in a new version of Judge Dredd, that Urban says comes more from the course material, titled Dredd and expected to be released in September 2012.

Far less interesting are the precrime future cop uniforms from Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report, based on Philip K. Dick’s short story of the same name:

For the new RoboCop, José Padilha is slated to direct a screenplay by Nick Schenk and Joshua Zetumer.  Thirty-three year old actor Joel Kinnaman has been tapped for the lead role as Murphy/RoboCop.  Of the creative trio, Schenk is the best known for his sceenplay for Clint Eastwood’s (awesome) film, Gran Torino.  Kinnaman had a small role in last year’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and as Stephen Holder in the TV series, The Killing.

Here is the the marketing blurb for the new film: “In a crime-ridden city, a terminally wounded cop returns to the force as a powerful cyborg with submerged memories haunting him.”

Unlike the new RoboCop, the original RoboCop rarely removed his helmet.

Padilha and Kinnaman have disclosed thus far that the new RoboCop will be a very different film than the original, with a costume where you can see the RoboCop’s eyes, and they’d said that the focus of the new story will be the period from Murphy getting shot to becoming RoboCop, as opposed to an action film where RoboCop serves as a futuristic officer.  So this seems a bit like the path of Martin Caidin’s original Bionic Man story as told in his novel Cyborg.

Ronny Cox and the earlier, non-cyborg version, from the original film

My favorite scene, and the one I hope they do include in some way, is the scene where the non-cyborg RoboCop before Weller’s is revealed to be flawed and destroys one of the executives in the board room at the big reveal.

The current release date is scheduled for August 9, 2013.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

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