Wakanda Forever: Josh Pearce and Arley Sorg Discuss Black Panther

Wakanda! A land of secrets. This is the homeland of the Black Panther. It sits on the world’s largest deposit of the exotic element vibranium, which enables Wakandans to achieve fantastic technological heights beyond the rest of the world (Flying cars! Healing damaged spinal columns! Fingerprint-sized communication devices with global range! Maglev trains! Oh, and collapsible armor-piercing spears—which fire energy waves!). This technology also allows them to disguise the entire ...Read More

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Midnight at the OASIS: Gary Westfahl Reviews Ready Player One

Audiences will probably enjoy watching Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One, but they won’t necessarily feel proud of themselves for doing so. Rather, they will recognize that they have paid some money to participate in a thrilling, fast-paced, but essentially empty adventure – much like the arcade video games that, in the film, have eventually engendered the immense virtual universe of OASIS.

The film has been faithful to the basic ...Read More

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Once More Out of the Breach: Gary Westfahl Reviews Pacific Rim: Uprising

If you are delayed by inclement weather while traveling to see Pacific Rim: Uprising, do not be overly dismayed, because the film might actually be more enjoyable if you walk into the theater an hour after it has started. True, you will struggle to understand some aspects of the plot, but when you are watching enormous, human-controlled robots (jaegers) battling against loathsome reptilian monsters (kaiju) in brilliantly choreographed sequences ...Read More

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No Wrinkles, and Some Wasted Time: Gary Westfahl Reviews A Wrinkle in Time

When reviewing a film, I’ve always strived to avoid reading anything about it, so I can evaluate the film while untainted by others’ opinions. Today, however, that is no longer possible. In a world where people are starving in Venezuela, and innocent civilians are being slaughtered in Syria, the breaking news each week is the anticipated fortunes of the major films about to be released. So, simply by glancing at ...Read More

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Damaged Goods: Gary Westfahl reviews Annihilation

Jeff VanderMeer’s 2014 novel Annihilation is a magical and mysterious book, and the simplest way to criticize Alex Garland’s film of the novel is to say that it is not a magical and mysterious film. To be sure, director and screenwriter Garland might protest that he did the best he could to convey the essence of VanderMeer’s novel while working within the confines of contemporary Hollywood filmmaking, but the bottom ...Read More

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The Omega Boy: A Review of Maze Runner: The Death Cure, by Gary Westfahl

Although I haven’t read any reviews of the film, I suspect that Wes Ball’s Maze Runner: The Death Cure (simply entitled The Death Cure in the opening credits) will be praised, or condemned, as a routine action film, with a series of exciting, well-executed sequences pitting likable protagonists against impossible odds, stitched together by quieter scenes to advance its plot and develop the characters. In sum, if you like the ...Read More

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The Knack of the Puppet People: A Review of Downsizing

An introductory disclosure: when I was in graduate school, I became the friend, and occasional roommate, of Jim Taylor’s older brother Doug Taylor, and I met and talked with Jim a few times when he was a student at Pomona College. I particularly remember a final conversation when Jim reported that, after graduating, he had moved to Los Angeles to pursue, so far unsuccessfully, a career as a Hollywood screenwriter. ...Read More

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Is It Time to Let Old Things Die?: A Review ofStar Wars: The Last Jedi, by Gary Westfahl

Since Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi contains almost all of the elements that have made the franchise so popular – likable heroes, implacable villains, superb special effects, colorful aliens and robots, the requisite number of space battles and lightsaber duels, and a rousing John Williams score – it will undoubtedly prove enormously successful and thoroughly satisfying to diehard fans. However, as time passes, I suspect that those fans ...Read More

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The Creature Waltzes Among Us: A Review ofThe Shape of Water, by Gary Westfahl

As has happened before, I face the dilemma of reviewing a film that I have been clearly instructed to like, yet did not actually like. But, one might ask, what is there is dislike about The Shape of Water? It is the work of an author-director, Guillermo del Toro, who has repeatedly demonstrated his knowledge of, and fondness for, science fiction films, as well demonstrated by the excellent Pacific ...Read More

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Six Characters in Search of an Auteur: A Review of Justice League, by Gary Westfahl

Much to my surprise, I actually enjoyed watching Justice League, which can be appreciated as unpretentious fun, featuring likable characters and some moments of genuine humor. To be sure, it is not an ideal film, but the concept of bringing together popular superheroes to battle against common foes is appealing enough to overcome the recurring infelicities that have marred almost all of the recent films in the DC Extended ...Read More

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A Satisfactory Replicant: A Review of Blade Runner 2049

To get the heresy out of the way: I have never been all that enamored of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982). Yes, the film is well made and visually stunning, and it certainly stands head and shoulders over all the other, usual lamentable adaptations of Philip K. Dick stories in the three decades after its release. But it remains the prototype for a sort of science fiction film that sadly ...Read More

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“This Is Going to Be a Lot of Fun”: A Review of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

For the most part, I found Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets to be an enjoyable space adventure, deploying consistently dazzling visuals in support of an involving story that never becomes entirely predictable. And while serious issues are intermittently raised, the film is refreshingly unpretentious, in contrast to other recent films, as the director’s primary aim was clearly to entertain audiences, not to enlighten or inspire ...Read More

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The Apes of Wrath: A Review of War for the Planet of the Apes

To my knowledge, there are no announced plans for a fourth film in the recent Planet of the Apes prequel series, and everything about Matt Reeves’s War for the Planet of the Apes thankfully suggests a desire to bring its series to an end as a trilogy. True, much of the film simply carries on the apes-versus-humans saga unveiled in the second film, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes ...Read More

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A Working Model for Superhero Films: A Review of Wonder Woman

Without a doubt, Patty Jenkins’s Wonder Woman is the very best of the recent “DC Extended Universe” superhero films – yet the praise doesn’t mean as much as it should, inasmuch as its undistinguished precursors – Man of Steel (2013 – review here), Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016 – review here), and Suicide Squad (2016 – review here) – set the bar very low, to put it mildly. ...Read More

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Contractual Obligations: A Review of Alien: Covenant

In contemporary Hollywood, the announced information about a film often conveys an implied contract – a covenant, as it were – between filmgoers and filmmakers: if you buy a ticket to see this movie, you are guaranteed to experience certain desired forms of entertainment. Thus, a picture with the word “Alien” in its title, directed by Ridley Scott, promises potential viewers that they will observe numerous images of H. R. ...Read More

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Back to the Retrofuture, Version 2.0:A Review of Ghost in the Shell

by Gary Westfahl

One personal revelation garnered from watching the new, live-action version of Ghost in the Shell is that it is possible to admire a film without really liking it. Director Rupert Sanders and screenwriters Jamie Moss, William Wheeler, and Ehren Kruger have unquestionably crafted an intelligently-written, fast-paced, and visually stunning adventure, and as the events unfolded, I kept thinking that I should be enjoying the experience. Instead, I ...Read More

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Mutiny of the Unknown Alien Slime: A Review of Life

by Gary Westfahl

From one perspective, Life represents yet another example of a recent Hollywood trend that I find heartening – a renewed interest in realistic depictions of humanity’s probable future in space (which I term “spacesuit films”) that contrast sharply with the appealing fantasies of the Star Trek and Star Wars franchises. The film takes place on the actual International Space Station, and it involves a long-researched project – ...Read More

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Bungle in the Jungle: A Review of Kong: Skull Island

by Gary Westfahl

Kong: Skull Island actually begins quite promisingly, as we are introduced to a diverse and generally appealing cast of characters, and they gather together to journey to the mysterious Skull Island and confront the enormous, and initially hostile, King Kong (also glimpsed in a prologue). One briefly imagines that director Jordan Vogt-Roberts has finally achieved what John Guillermin (in 1976) and Peter Jackson (in 2005) could not ...Read More

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The Boy Who Fell to Earth: A Review of The Space Between Us

by Gary Westfahl

Like a NASA rocket slowly rising from the surface, The Space Between Us takes a long time to achieve escape velocity and soar through space; however, if you can endure one of the most boring opening sequences in any film I can recall, and about an hour of trite melodramatic sequences interspersed with inauthentic personal drama, its last thirty minutes are actually quite enjoyable, even moving. Whether ...Read More

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Starshipboard Romance: A Review of Passengers

by Gary Westfahl

There are several reasons to admire Passengers: it addresses a topic that is usually avoided in science fiction films – how humanity might colonize the galaxy without the magic of faster-than-light travel; its starship is filled with imaginative visual touches; and its story is genuinely unpredictable, consistently holding one’s interest despite a small cast and limited sets. And yet, there is also something strangely incongruous about ...Read More

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“I Have a Bad Feeling About This”:A Review of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

by Gary Westfahl

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story provides precisely what it promises – a professionally-rendered, authentic Star Wars story – and enthusiastic devotees of the Star Wars universe will probably be pleased by the results; indeed, in the theatre where I watched it, its conclusion was greeted with scattered applause. However, filmgoers who are not diehard fans, and who were not entirely thrilled by Star Wars: The Force ...Read More

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Two Thousand Translations: A Speech Odyssey: A Review of Arrival

by Gary Westfahl

Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival is a film that will be properly praised as an unusually intelligent and sensitive science fiction film, derived from an unusually intelligent and sensitive science fiction story, Ted Chiang’s “Story of Your Life” (1998). In many respects, it is faithful to Chiang’s novella: linguist Dr. Louise Banks, enlisted to translate the enigmatic spoken and written languages of visiting aliens, finds that as she masters ...Read More

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Another Day, Another Dinosaur: A Review of Shin Godzilla (aka Godzilla Resurgence)

by Gary Westfahl

Because the Japanese film Shin Godzilla (also known as Godzilla Resurgence) was unexpectedly given only a limited American release, beginning on October 11, it is inevitably a film that will take quite a while to achieve its full audience, as it gradually becomes more accessible via Netflix, cable television, DVDs, and network television; in this case, then, a promptly posted, day-after-release-date review did not seem important. ...Read More

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Dawn of Injustice: A Review of Suicide Squad

by Gary Westfahl

It is not a critical term that often comes to mind, but David Ayer’s Suicide Squad strikes me as a very meh kind of film – a hodgepodge of characters and moments that work, and characters and moments that don’t work, tossed together in a story line that sometimes makes sense and sometimes doesn’t. Further, the film cannot escape the perception that it is a stopgap measure, ...Read More

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Steady As She Goes: A Review of Star Trek Beyond

by Gary Westfahl

To a remarkable extent, Star Trek Beyond is a film designed to appeal to aging fans of the original series; certain moments – the repeated references to the late Leonard Nimoy’s portrayal of the elderly Ambassador Spock, a photograph of the original cast, the sound of the first series’ fanfare, and the concluding recital of the iconic Star Trek oath (“Space …. the final frontier ….”) by ...Read More

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The Fogeys of July: A Review of Independence Day: Resurgence

by Gary Westfahl

Since I was recently complimented at a conference for writing “honest” film reviews, I feel obliged to begin this one by conveying my honest reaction to Independence Day: Resurgence: although I was bored and appalled by the original Independence Day (1996), and utterly baffled by its tremendous popularity, I somehow found its belated sequel to be surprisingly engaging, even moving, despite some obvious issues in its ...Read More

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Alice the Great and Powerful: A Review of Alice Through the Looking Glass

by Gary Westfahl

The visual effects are regularly creative and engaging, and there are lines here and there that might make you laugh, but overall, anyone looking for 153 minutes of entertainment on this Memorial Day weekend would be best advised to read, or reread, Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871) instead of watching this film, which borrows its title but none of its unique ...Read More

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“No One Stays Good in This World”: A Review of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Since debuting in 1938, Superman has confronted many imposing adversaries, including Lex Luthor – a formidable foe whether characterized as an obsessed bald scientist or scheming corporate tycoon; the alien computer Brainiac; Terra-Man, armed with an endless array of ingenious weapons; several Kryptonian supervillains who survived the destruction of their planet in the Phantom Zone; and the ancient Kryptonian monster Doomsday, who once succeeded in killing the Man of Steel. ...Read More

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A Divergent Hunger Maze Game: A Review of The 5th Wave

It seems to be the new pattern for Hollywood success: write a young adult novel about an apocalyptic future society wherein likable teenagers are oppressed by evil adults, ostensibly for some noble purpose; stretch the story out into (at least) a trilogy; sell the rights to film producers anxious to exploit a pre-sold property, designed to appeal to a coveted target audience, that requires no expensive stars; and achieve fame ...Read More

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“It’s Gravity Meets Night of the Living Dead!”:A Review of 400 Days

by Gary Westfahl

Note: if you don’t happen to live near the fifteen American theatres where 400 Days is opening on January 15 (listed here), you may find that the film is available through your cable services as a Video on Demand, which is how I watched the film. Indeed, this might be an ideal way to watch the film, since it is described as the intimate drama of four ...Read More

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Actually, the Force Is Sleepwalking: A Review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens

by Gary Westfahl

An introductory disclaimer: although I have repeatedly watched, vividly remember, and still cherish the first three Star Wars films – which I still insist upon calling by their original titles, Star Wars (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), and Return of the Jedi (1983) – I could never force myself to watch any of the three “prequel” films in their entirety, and I have no familiarity with ...Read More

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Rebels Without a Clue: A Review of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

by Gary Westfahl

As I review The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, one major challenge will be to avoid repeating what I said while reviewing The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014) (review here) – because, as their titles indicate, they are two parts of the same film, planned simultaneously and largely filmed at the same time. (There is absolutely no pretense that this is a separate ...Read More

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