Kogonada’s After Yang is a science-fiction drama about a family that has lost someone. After competing in a dance competition as a family, their second-hand robotic son, Yang (played by Justin H. Min), malfunctions. Hoping to get him fixed, the family father, Jake (played by Colin Farrell), sets out to find a way to fix him, even though they are advised to simply replace him with another unit. As Jake gets access to Yang’s memory bank, he gains a new understanding of who Yang actually was.
Directed by James Cameron — Screenplay by James Cameron.
Whether it’s due to disbelief, overhype, or that product having been oversold, I think we’ve all been guilty of calling something widely praised or beloved ‘overrated.’ When Avatar first came out, people were perhaps slightly hyperbolic when it came to praising the somewhat allegorical James Cameron sci-fi epic. I was a teenager when it was released, and I remember once standing in line at a Blockbuster as people were over-the-moon excited to own the film on physical media. I hadn’t seen it in theaters and, after having seen it, I struggled to really be as thoroughly overwhelmed by it as other people seemed to have been. I really enjoyed the Leona Lewis song, and I thought it looked really good. I recognized that it was a solid picture, but, when I finally saw it, I do remember thinking something along the lines of “is that what all the fuss was about?” It wasn’t the best thing since sliced bread, which it certainly felt like it had been sold as.
Directed by Jordan Peele — Screenplay by Jordan Peele.
With Get Out andUs, Jordan Peele’s name became synonymous with the social-horror genre. A master of horror on the rise, who is still building his oeuvre, Peele’s films as a director thus far have felt like event films, to me. Get Out was a masterpiece and one of the best films of the 2010s, and Us was a fantastic horror film that I think is exceptionally rewatchable, rewarding, and thought-provoking. He didn’t land all of his big ideas with Us, but it was still one of my favorite films of 2019. I absolutely loved it. So, when his third outing as a director was announced and revealed to be a sci-fi horror flick starring two of my favorite actors of the 2010s in Daniel Kaluuya, re-teaming with Peele after Get Out, and Steven Yeun, who made his name known with The Walking Dead but whose best performance can be seen in Lee Chang-dong’s masterpiece Burning, my expectations reached a fever pitch. So, does NOPE work? In a word, yep.
Directed by Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane) — Screenplay by Patrick Aison — Story by Patrick Aison & Dan Trachtenberg.
When I was a kid, my father would often want to watch the Alien and Predator films with me. Truth be told, I was probably a little bit too young to watch them when I did, but I didn’t mind and they never gave me nightmares. Instead, for me those films helped to create a love for sci-fi action and sci-fi horror, and I really love watching them over and over again, even though not all of the films are great. As a kid, I vividly remember that, to me, mindblowing moment when an easter egg in Predator 2 revealed a connection between those two franchises.
Directed by Joseph Kosinski — Screenplay by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick.
No, my fellow cineastes, your eyes are not deceiving you. This adaptation of the George Saunders short story Escape from Spiderhead was indeed directed by Joseph Kosinski whose film Top Gun: Maverick — a charming, thrilling, and crowd-pleasing legacy sequel — invigorated the film and movie theater industries by being a huge hit just this very month, and its screenplay was indeed written by the writers of Zombieland, Deadpool, and Life — Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. When you add the fact that Spiderhead is spearheaded by acting talents like Marvel Studios’ God of Thunder, Chris Hemsworth, and Whiplash lead, Miles Teller (who also starred in Top Gun: Maverick), then it starts to sound like the kind of film that ought to have been released in theaters or, at the very least, been given a larger marketing push than it has gotten thus far. You’d be right in thinking that. Even though it has some issues, it deserves far better than falling into obscurity as one of the many overlooked entries in Netflix’s vast content library.
All eight episodes of ‘Outer Range: Season One’ are available on Amazon Prime Video right now.
I don’t think I watch enough Amazon Prime Video shows. Sure, I watch their biggest series and select lesser shows, but I still feel like I often overlook some of their lesser-known output. Brian Watkins’ Outer Range seemed destined to end up as a show I had heard about but which hadn’t caught my eye for whatever reason. But after watching a Late Show with Stephen Colbert interview with the show’s lead actor Josh Brolin, who I am a big fan of, my interest was piqued. Their description of the show had sold it to me, and I’m glad I watched it, even though it’s a difficult show to communicate to others without spoiling too much.
Directed by Shawn Levy (Free Guy) – Screenplay by Jonathan Tropper, T.S. Nowlin, Jennifer Flackett, and Mark Levin.
In Shawn Levy’s The Adam Project, we follow Adam Reed (played by Walker Scobell), a 12-year-old who makes a lot of witty remarks and gets into fights. Adam and his mother (played by Jennifer Garner) are struggling after the recent death of his father (played by Mark Ruffalo), and they’re still trying to adjust to their new normal. While his mother is out on a date, something incredible happens. After going outside to check on a mysterious sound, he returns to his family home and finds a wounded fighter pilot, who has let himself inside. It doesn’t take Adam long to figure out that this isn’t just any fighter pilot, this is himself from a dystopian future. This older Adam (played by Ryan Reynolds) has traveled back in time to save lives and the future, but, now that he is injured, he may need his 12-year-old self to accomplish the job.
Directed by Denis Villeneuve (Blade Runner 2049) — Screenplay by Jon Spaihts, Denis Villeneuve, and Eric Roth.
When science-fiction neophytes first lay their eyes on the marketing material for Denis Villeneuve’s latest science-fiction film, Dune, they should be forgiven, if they immediately remark that it looks like an imitation of Star Wars — or other similar films. Obviously, they would be under a false impression, but, after all, it is a little bit strange that one of Star Wars‘ most obvious sources of inspiration — Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel Dune — has not previously generated a widely known or appreciated adaptation.
In fact, the Dune property is perhaps especially renowned for being difficult to adapt. Famously, Alejandro Jodorowsky tried but failed to get an adaptation off the ground, while David Lynch’s adaptation from 1984 was critically panned. Those ‘failed’ attempts are, in fact, more widely known than the Sci-Fi Channel mini-series that the franchise also spawned. Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. have now entrusted auteur Denis Villeneuve with the job of adapting Frank Herbert’s rich, influential, and dense source material, and I think that was a very smart decision.
Directed by Doug Liman — Screenplay by Patrick Ness & Christopher Ford.
On paper, this should be a huge hit. It’s a science-fiction action film starring Tom Holland of Spider-Man fame and Daisy Ridley of Star Wars fame, they are surrounded by a more than capable cast including the incredible Mads Mikkelsen (Another Round), and the film was directed by Edge of Tomorrow‘s Doug Liman. And yet this is a film that has been through quite a lot of behind-the-scenes work. It has gone through several rounds of rewrites and expensive reshoots, and it, reportedly, was the victim of poor reception at test screenings. After having had its release delayed several times, Chaos Walking is now here, but while it has all the ingredients of a film made for me, it just doesn’t work as a complete package.
Directed by Joe Penna (Arctic) – Screenplay by Joe Penna & Ryan Morrison.
Back in 2019, Joe Penna released his feature-length directorial debut, the Mads Mikkelsen-vehicle Arctic, which was a gripping story of survival in the face of a hopeless and cold wilderness. I was extremely impressed by Penna’s debut film, as it felt real, as it had a lot of heart, and since it rarely felt Hollywood-ized. It also helped that Mads Mikkelsen delivered one of his best performances in Penna’s underseen debut.