Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Breaths New Life into the Franchise

There are few movie series that embody their tag line more than Jurassic Park. “Life finds a way” perfectly describes a franchise that opened with an all-time classic and followed it up with the worst movie Steven Spielberg has ever directed and a fun third entry that still somehow managed to reduce Tea Leoni to a shrieking peril klaxon. Even Jurassic World, which should have been a slam dunk, managed to stumble into some weird evolutionary dead ends: Claire running through the jungle in high heels. Owen being a just staggeringly unlikable leading man. The weird, violent glee it took in killing Katie McGrath’s character, Zara. For every evolutionary step forward, Jurassic World took two back. But it still landed well enough to get a sequel. Life still found a way.

And the good news is that Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is far better than at least two ...

The Best Episodes of New Doctor Who So Far

Doctor Who returns! Twice! Sort of! The entire run of the original series (at least, all of the show that still exists) is currently streaming on Twitch and Amazon Prime, while the 2005-and-onward run of Nu-Who has just returned to BBC iPlayer here in the U.K. in preparation for the arrival of the Thirteenth Doctor later this year.

That’s a hell of a lot of TV to enjoy and obsess over, but it’s also an opportunity to revisit some great episodes that have too often been overlooked, even by the rabid fandom surrounding the newer seasons. So, here’s my list—covering one episode per each season or so—of the episodes of post-relaunch, 2000s-era Doctor Who that may not make most Top Tens, but remain far more interesting and fun than they’ve been given credit for.

 

“Boom Town” (2005, Ninth Doctor)

Yep. I went there. And the show went, ...

Playing Favorites with the Clarke Award Shortlists, 1987-2018

The fiction featured in this year’s Clarke Award shortlist spans everything from the second American Civil War to a post-apocalyptic fable set in the ruins of a sub-genre. It’s a brilliant collection of novels that’s also indicative of the award’s past choices, too. For over three decades, the Clarke has focused on the frontiers of the genre and—especially if you look at each year’s shortlists as well as the winners—it’s basically an honour roll representing some of the absolute best SF published since 1987. I recently took a look at the complete lists, and would like to highlight just a few of my favorites…

The Handmaid’s Tale occupies that rarified space where it’s both an essential text and one that is difficult to talk about without stepping into territory a lot of other people have already covered quite exhaustively. Margaret Atwood’s novel was the very first Clarke winner and explores ...

Don’t Underestimate the Genius of “The Deep” on This Year’s Hugo Ballot

Clipping (often styled as clipping.) are Daveed Diggs, William Huston, and Jonathan Snipes. After starting out as a remix project, they’ve evolved into an experimental, industrial rap act that combines a vast enthusiasm for their field and what happens at its edges with Diggs’ fiercely literate, playful lyrics. If you like and are familiar with rap, picture the centre of a Venn diagram where the overlapping circles are labelled “De La Soul,” “Michael Franti,” “A Tribe Called Quest,” “Dr. Dre’s production style,” and “The Bomb Squad.” If you don’t like or aren’t particularly familiar with rap, then the Venn diagram reads something like “Nine Inch Nails,” “Stockhausen,” “Gil Scott-Heron,” and “early Leftfield.” Their work is massive and precise, compassionate and architectural—at times intensely funny, and at others deeply horrific. They are, by far, one of the best things happening not just in rap but in music at ...

Announcing the 2018 Arthur C. Clarke Award Shortlist

The shortlist for the 2018 Clarke Award has just been announced. The Clarke is awarded to the best science fiction novel of the year and selected from a list of novels whose UK first edition was published in the previous calendar year. The judges for the award change every year, and this year’s panel includes:

  • Dave Hutchinson, British Science Fiction Association
  • Gaie Sebold, British Science Fiction Association
  • Paul March-Russell, Science Fiction Foundation
  • Kari Maund, Science Fiction Foundation
  • Charles Christian, SCI-FI-LONDON Film Festival

It’s an exciting list, in terms of variety—including three debuts and a range of novels that cover a wide slice of contemporary science fiction. Here are the details.

 

Sea of Rust , C. Robert Cargill (Gollancz)

The war between humans and machines has been over for years. We lost. Now, Brittle wanders the wasteland the war left behind. The only thing left is scavenging parts from dead ...

Expanding the Arrowverse: The Evolution of the TV Superhero

We’re in the home stretch for this season’s run of DC live action TV shows right now. Legends of Tomorrow recently wrapped up with a magnificent, over-caffeinated hour of maniacal invention while Black Lightning’s finale brought everything full circle back to the Pierce family and their future. Elsewhere, Supergirl is starting in on the back end of the season, The Flash has two episodes to go and has rarely been better than it is right now, and Arrow is finally course-correcting after a dismally uneven year.

So: Five core TV shows, not counting the various animated spinoffs, all from the same production house and all dealing with DC characters. Each one is successful, each one is popular, and each one, when laid out in chronological order of release shows us something fascinating. It shows us that, despite the endless, interminable claims that superhero TV is all the same, in ...

Expanding the Arrowverse: The Evolution of the TV Superhero

We’re in the home stretch for this season’s run of DC live action TV shows right now. Legends of Tomorrow recently wrapped up with a magnificent, over-caffeinated hour of maniacal invention while Black Lightning’s finale brought everything full circle back to the Pierce family and their future. Elsewhere, Supergirl is starting in on the back end of the season, The Flash has two episodes to go and has rarely been better than it is right now, and Arrow is finally course-correcting after a dismally uneven year.

So: Five core TV shows, not counting the various animated spinoffs, all from the same production house and all dealing with DC characters. Each one is successful, each one is popular, and each one, when laid out in chronological order of release shows us something fascinating. It shows us that, despite the endless, interminable claims that superhero TV is all the same, in ...

The Walking Dead Rises Again, Against All Expectations

The last piece I wrote about the show was called “Is There Still Hope For The Walking Dead?” The temptation to title this one “…Yep.” was almost overwhelming.

It’s becoming almost a tradition to take a long look back at all the things The Walking Dead screws up in every season because, like any long running show, it does screw up an awful lot. The pacing is glacial, and the increasingly vast cast of characters is only well served by the plot and script about a third of the time. The show’s overt fondness for grimdark spectacle and repetition of narrative cycles (it’s Rick’s darkest hour, again!) is now built in irrevocably to every new season. And let’s not forget how many immensely troublesome child characters the show has featured—or the arbitrary, even controversial, removal of one of its longest-serving cast members earlier in the season. ...

Duncan Jones’ Moon Is Still a 21st-century Classic

Mute, Duncan Jones’ long-awaited follow-up to Moon, hit Netflix last month, after a lengthy incubation period. It’s part of Netflix’s current trend of producing and/or acquiring somewhat esoteric genre movies, a trend which began with Bright and continued with The Cloverfield Paradox and Annihilation, up through imminent releases like The Titan. Often these releases are intended for overseas audiences, sometimes global, but the process is ongoing and has so far given us a wide slate of films that have varied from frequently great (Annihilation) to ones that seem to be setting up a far better sequel (Bright).

Mute is something of the middle child in all this, and its reviews have reflected that. Slammed for being an unusual combination of cyberpunk and film noir, as well as for a script that touches on everything from Amish woodwork to the aftermath of Moon, ...

Essential Viewing: The Films of Guillermo del Toro

Let’s hear it for Guillermo del Toro, ladies and gentlemen! One of the most passionate and articulate advocates for genre (in particular) and narrative (in general) as a force for good finally picked up a long overdue best Director Oscar earlier this month. His prolific body of work is filled with movies that are worth your time, so if you’re looking for where to go next in his filmography (or just in need of some excellent rewatch options), here are some suggestions…

Mimic, on its initial release, got somewhat lost in the vast wave of mid-range horror and science fiction that hit cinemas in the early ‘90s. It was also a film that del Toro was unhappy with, as he did not have final cut. That was remedied by the release of a director’s cut released in 2011, which helps the film immensely.

The movie, based on the short ...

Daniel Kaluuya: The Making of a Cross-Genre Superstar

Daniel Kaluuya is currently riding high in two of the best movies of the last 18 months. Oscar nominated and BAFTA winning for his turn as Chris in Get Out, he’s also a vital part of the Black Panther ensemble. In the hands of any other actor, either character would be a challenge. With Kaluuya inhabiting the roles, both soar.

Let’s start, of course, with Get Out. Chris Washington, played by Kaluuya, is the rock that his increasingly unsettling hosts break themselves against. For Missy, he’s a test case, for Jeremy a would-be opponent and for Dean and Rose? He’s just next. All of them see him as a commodity, none of them see him as human. The movie, and Kaluuya, use that to both throw the escalating horror into stark relief and to give Chris agency in ways that you never expect. The third act in particular is ...

Joss Whedon’s Exit is a Huge Opportunity for Batgirl and the DCEU

Joss Whedon has stepped away from the Batgirl movie, citing the fact he just didn’t have a story to tell. It’s an interesting moment of honesty but, regardless of your overall opinion of him, Whedon doesn’t matter in this instance. What does matter is that one of DC’s most iconic characters is in need of a director and scriptwriter, and DC have a massive opportunity to use that need to signal a sea change in their approach.

It’s not concrete, not yet, but in the wake of Wonder Woman’s success, DC finally seems intent on bringing some variety to their movie universe. We’ll see for sure when the first stills from Shazam! Hit—those are due any day now, apparently. Regardless, there’s a real sense—embodied within the movie universe itself by the return of Superman—of hope coming to the DCEU for the first time in a while. A major change, ...

Is There Still Hope for The Walking Dead?

The Walking Dead, which returns for the second half of its eight season this Sunday, finds itself in the midst of interesting times. Yet again. It feels like overly familiar territory, at this point. The Walking Dead is a show that excels at pushing its luck, knowing full well that there is fertile ground out beyond its viewers’ comfort zones—and trusting them to follow it loyally, out and back again.

In the first half of this season, for the first time, it may genuinely have gone too far.

The season’s main plot followed the war with the Saviors. The show is always at its strongest when focusing on the ideological and personal levels and this was no exception. The season did great work as it explored the different ideologies of the human settlements, and the way those ideologies clashed. It also used the personal choices of several surprising characters ...

How Netflix is Changing Science Fiction (Beyond Big Marketing Gimmicks)

Sense8. Okja. Bright. The OA. Mute. Travelers. Dark. Altered Carbon. The Cloverfield Paradox. Plus The Expanse and Annihilation, internationally speaking. In the last few years Netflix has positioned itself as a hub for contemporary genre fiction TV and movies. And these titles are just the tip of the iceberg; Netflix’s anime slate is impressive too, not to mention their laundry list of other live action TV shows and movies.

In terms of the company’s recent SFF releases, the movie slate they’ve put together is worth taking a serious look at. Specifically, Bright, Mute, Annihilation, and The Cloverfield Paradox. Those four movies tell us a lot not only about Netflix’s approach, but also about the way mid-level, cerebral science fiction and fantasy is viewed in the west at the moment. While it’s not all bad news, it’s certainly not all good, either.

Let’s start with Bright. The ...

How Jordan Peele’s Get Out Made Low-Budget Horror Oscar-Worthy

Get Out is the first truly great western horror movie of the 21st Century. It’s Rosemary’s Baby for the post-millennial world, a social horror story that is seethingly angry, terrified, terrifying, and frequently hilarious. I work with horror for my day job—normally prose but often cinema too—and Get Out is one of the finest horror movies I have ever seen. Hell, it’s one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. It absolutely deserves every single one of its Oscar nominations—deserves to sweep the board, in fact. Whether it will do so is dependent on how fond the Academy is of World War II (odds are, far too much) and or sexy mermen (hopefully very), but even getting to this stage, to these awards? It’s unprecedented in about a dozen different ways.

That unprecedented success is particularly impressive when you consider its production history and realize that Get Out is the ...

Everything You Need to Know about Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams

Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams is a US/UK produced anthology series adapting ten of Dick’s short stories for the big screen. It’s very much in the Black Mirror style, presenting standalone episodes with strongly individual visual identities under a single banner. It starts airing in the US today (January 12th)) on Amazon Video—but thanks to some, shall we say, eccentric scheduling decisions, the first six episodes aired in the UK last year.

Here’s your guide to what to expect (avoiding major spoilers, of course), and which episodes to seek out!

Opening with “The Hood Maker” is one of the smartest choices the show makes. Julian Jarrold’s direction is Blade Runner by way of Dredd—all carefully aged vintage clothing, dust, and heat. That stylistic base gives Matthew Graham’s script something to stand up on; the episode opens confidently and never lets up.

In an authoritarian state called the ...

Great Holiday Movies in Which Everything Goes Wrong, And Sometimes Explodes

So, the festive season is officially upon us. U.K. shopping centres are all playing the same jolly-but-also-intensely-misanthropic-and-grumpy mix tape they run every year, the supermarkets are trying to out-schmaltz each other with their ads, and festive jumpers are springing up all over the country like cheerful, pun-laden woolen triffids.

This all means one thing: the time for festive movies is at hand! And I’m not talking the never-ending stream of “It Happened One Christmas Eve” Lifetime movies, fun as they are. Oh no, this is the good stuff. The odd stuff. The stuff where things get weird. And sometimes, on occasion, explode.

 

A McClane Family Christmas

So let’s get the obvious one out of the way. Yes, Die Hard absolutely counts—it’s set at Christmas, Alan Rickman gets thrown off something, there’s a cuddly toy, it’s all good. Die Hard is deservedly viewed as one of the definitive modern ...

Directors Who Could Make Really Interesting Star Trek Films

Quentin Tarantino apparently has a great idea for a Star Trek movie. While that’s a “jumbo shrimp” sentence if ever you heard one, it’s also true. It’s an idea that the studio is so enamoured with that a writers’ room has been assembled in order to workshop it.

There are really two things going on here. The first is the slight possibility of Tarantino being given a Star Trek movie. I’ve personally not connected with his work for a while, but he’s got a serious reputation, a style all his own, and provided he can color inside the lines (at least mostly), a Tarantino Trek film could be fun. It could also be a hot mess, and the fact that a lot of people have run screaming from the news says a lot about how fractious and divisive his style and reputation are, at the current moment.

And, weirdly, that’s ...

Directors Who Could Make Really Interesting Star Trek Films

Quentin Tarantino apparently has a great idea for a Star Trek movie. While that’s a “jumbo shrimp” sentence if ever you heard one, it’s also true. It’s an idea that the studio is so enamoured with that a writers’ room has been assembled in order to workshop it.

There are really two things going on here. The first is the slight possibility of Tarantino being given a Star Trek movie. I’ve personally not connected with his work for a while, but he’s got a serious reputation, a style all his own, and provided he can color inside the lines (at least mostly), a Tarantino Trek film could be fun. It could also be a hot mess, and the fact that a lot of people have run screaming from the news says a lot about how fractious and divisive his style and reputation are, at the current moment.

And, weirdly, that’s ...

Tom Baker and Douglas Adams Ride Again in “Shada,” The Lost Doctor Who Serial

“Shada” is a Doctor Who story that’s always been folded away in strange pockets of the show’s history (which, given the direction the plot ultimately takes, is oddly appropriate). Initially recorded as part of Season 17, which aired in 1979 and 1980, the serial was abandoned due to a labor strike at the BBC. Written by Douglas Adams and representing one of Tom Baker’s final appearances in the role, it sits between decades, at the edge of the Fourth Doctor’s tenure and just before the next regeneration. “Shada” has lingered in a state that’s been both well documented and frustratingly incomplete. Numerous attempts have been made to finish the story, including a Big Finish audio drama starring the Eighth Doctor, a novelization, and a video release with Baker explaining what happened in the scenes that were never shot. All of them have tried to close the circle that “Shada” opened ...