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28 Days of Sci-February #12

L is for Live Die Repeat, the best sci-fi movie of the last decade

Sci-Fi Heaven

I’m amazed at the amount of great sci-fi movies and TV series that are being released each year. It wasn’t too long ago that sci-fi was relegated to late night TV syndication or movies of the week, but these days the most popular films are all sci-fi in nature and there are a plethora of quality sci-fi TV series too.


Captain America

What sci-fi movies am I talking about that are so popular? To me, just about each and every superhero movie is sci-fi in disguise. Don’t believe me? Superman is an alien, both Spider-Man and Captain America were created by experiments gone awry and The Guardians of the Galaxy takes place on far off planets in the depths of space.

Even ones that don’t directly contain sci-fi tropes none-the-less have sci-fi elements from Iron Man’s robot-like armor to Batman’s crazy gadgets.

And those are just superhero movies. There’s also loads of great obvious sci-fi movies too.

Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road

One of my favorites of the last few years was the underrated Tom Cruise/Emily Blunt movie Edge of Tomorrow about a soldier who’s trapped in a time loop and is forced to live the worst day of his life over and over again during an alien invasion. There’s also the new Planet of the Apes franchise that’s taken a story that’s been around nearly 50 years and put a fresh spin on it and even the latest Mad Max: Fury Road that’s based on a nearly 40 year old film series and recently won the most Oscars at the 2016 ceremony.

And it’s ostensibly a movie that’s a big car chase that takes place in a post-apocalyptic future!

And let’s not forget the two grand sci-fi franchises of the 20th and 21st century; Star Wars and Star Trek. The current Star Trek film franchise has been around since 2009 and has produced three movies, the latest of which was the number one movie in the country for a few weeks running. And Star Wars returned last year with Star Wars: The Force Awakens and earned more than $2 billion at the box office. Now there are new Star Wars movie due out every year forever — or until the movies stop making money.

Daisy Ridley from Star Wars: Episode VII

Daisy Ridley from Star Wars: Episode VII

Because TV series costs less to make than a movie things are even better for the sci-fi genera on the small screen. There, series like The Expanse on SyFy is a classic “people in very large ships in outer space” series updated for the modern day while The Man in the High Castle on Amazon Prime brings movie adaptation stalwart Philip K Dick to a TV series and even the oh-so-good Stephen King/Steven Spielberg/1980s mashup Stranger Things on Netflix.

In fact there’s so much good TV on these days I could go on and on and on. I didn’t mention the awesome Black Mirror on Netflix or even Doctor Who on BBC America with seemingly more sci-fi series announced each month.

Next year brings the return of Star Trek to TV screens for the first time in 12 years with Star Trek: Discovery. Discovery is co-produced with Bryan Fuller who created the amazing Hannibal series and was also a Star Trek writer in the 1990s. Which means there’ll be two totally separate Trek properties, one in movie theaters and the other streaming to TVs.

The Expanse

The Expanse

And because sci-fi is so popular and makes so much money these days the immediate future looks nothing but bright. The superhero genera is so popular there are SEVEN big-budget movies due out in 2017 and the next Star Wars movie Rogue One premiers this winter. What has me most excited are upcoming movies like Annihilation based on a book series of the same name, another Alien prequel and a new King Kong movie all due out next year.

Surly all this gold can’t last — one day sci-fi will return to the geeky depths that it emerged from earlier this century. Nothing this good can last forever, but until the bubble collapses I’ll be spending my time with my favorite stories and characters at the movies and on TV every week.

Direct Beam Comms #18


Classic Doctor Who

All I wanted was a Pepsi

All I wanted was a Pepsi

My local PBS station began airing episode of classic Doctor Who a few weeks back starting with the very first Tom Baker episode entitled “Robot” and it looks like for the most part they’re airing them in order. I couldn’t be more happy. I’ve been dying to watch more episodes of the classic Doctor Who for years now, ever since the 50th anniversary a few years ago and when BBC America began airing a handful of Baker episodes last year.

American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson

The first season of American Crime Story on FX ended its run last week about the trial of O.J. Simpson. The sad thing is that I know a few people who didn’t watch the show because they “knew how it ended.” Except that American Crime Story was anything but just about the ending. It was about all the bits that were never broadcast on TV in the 1990s; what was going on behind the scenes with the lawyers, and jurors and family members we never got to see.

The neat thing about the story was that it wasn’t just one sided — for or against O.J. It’s mostly about the lawyers — the prosecution building a seemingly airtight case against Simpson and the defense finding ways to make their case a little a lot less airtight while at the same time trying to expose what they see as a corrupt system against African Americans in Los Angeles.

In a TV season with a lot of simply great dramas, American Crime Story was one of the best. A


Edge of Tomorrow: Live Die Repeat

Last week writer/director Christopher McQuarrie announced that there’s going to be a sequel to the wonderful movie Edge of Tomorrow with Doug Liman set to return as director and Tom Cruise as star. I didn’t think that Edge of Tomorrow did well enough at the box office to warrant a sequel, but luckily I was wrong. Edge of Tomorrow is one of the best sci-fi films of the modern age and along with movies like Mad Max: Fury Road is redefining the sci-fi genera.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story movie trailer

“What will you become?”

Officially titled Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, this eighth movie in the franchise is the first one to be told outside of the main Star Wars storyline. Here, a resistance fighter, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is tasked with stealing the plans for the Death Star. Or, Rogue One would be what was going on immediately before Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope where those plans are hidden inside R2-D2. What I like about the trailer is the design aesthetic seems to be taken straight from those gorgeous Dave Dorman Star Wars paintings that seemed to be on everything Star Wars related in the 1990s. What I don’t like about it is that the vibe in the Rogue One trailer comes off a bit too Katniss in Hunger Games at times for my taste.

That being said, the trailer’s much more good than bad.

The Reading List

Chris Hardwick, King of the Nerds, Is Expanding His Empire

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1979 The TV series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century premiers
  • 1983 The Evil Dead premiers in theaters

Edge of Tomorrow the best movie of 2014

Imagine being able to live a single day over and over again, where you can anticipate everything that’s going to happen and then make infinite improvements until you’re able to do practically anything short of being a living god. In the movie Groundhog Day that something happens to the character of Phil Connors (Bill Murray) who lives Groundhog Day over and over again. Which turns out kind’a great for Phil since he’s able to perfect everything, to the point that he turns his life around and instead of being a cold, distant jerk turns himself into a nice, giving person who’s able to win the hand of Rita Hanson (Andie MacDowell) in the end.

Tom Cruise in a power suit

Tom Cruise in a power suit

Now imagine Groundhog Day, except that rather than having the ultimate “do-over” to come out on top, that nothing you do can change the ultimate outcome of events, that every different choice you make to try and change the day instead all leads to the same inevitable conclusion; your death.

That’s the basic premise of the movie Edge of Tomorrow, since kind’a sort’a retitled Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow.

Here, alien “mimics” have invaded the planet and in a matter of years have taken control of most of Europe. What’s left of our forces are about to mount the greatest invasion in history to take back the content. But on invasion day we’re all but wiped out by a mimic surprise attack and when military PR specialist Bill Cage (Tom Cruise) is about to become one of the casualties, he accidentally sets off a chain of events that leads him to live this day over and over again.

He wakes up, is yelled at by his Sergeant (played by the wonderful Bill Paxton), is a part of this doomed invasion, sees it all go to hell and then at some point is killed.

And repeat.


These do-overs start off terribly for Cage who can’t quite figure out what’s going on. And no matter how or when he dies, and he always does die, he wakes up to repeat everything over and over again.

Eventually Cage teams up with badass soldier Rita (Emily Blunt) to try and change the variables, figure a way off the invasion beach and behind the lines to end the war for good. Which in an ordinary movie the story of Edge of Tomorrow would borrow from the Groundhog Day playbook and simply have Cage and Rita figure the perfect way to escape the beach, kill the master alien, win the war and fall in love.

Emily Blunt as Rita aka The Angel of Verdun

Emily Blunt as Rita aka The Angel of Verdun

Except in Edge of Tomorrow they’re NEVER able to figure a way off the beach. In every different iteration they try it always ends the same with either Rita or Cage dying and resetting everything back to the beginning. And where at first death with no consequences is fun for Cage it eventually becomes to much to bear seeing Rita killed over and over again day after day after day.

It’s an interesting shift in tone from comedy to serious drama not too many movies can pull off these days.

Another way Edge of Tomorrow succeeds when so many other recent summer movies have failed is the story of the film leaves just enough questions unanswered. Like where do the “mimics” come from? How does Cage’s time travel work exactly? What’s all been going on the last few years the mimics have been on the planet?

This isn’t sloppy storytelling — far from it. It’s actually great storytelling, giving the viewer just enough of the story to follow and leaving the rest up to his/her imagination.

Tom Cruise and Bill Paxton

Tom Cruise and Bill Paxton

Not too many “hard” sci-fi films are made these days. Sure, there’s an argument to be made that all comic book movies are sci fi and films like Riddick, Godzilla and Star Trek that have all been released in the last few years are sci fi. But I’d argue that while comic book movies have sci-fi elements, they aren’t really sci-fi. And while Riddick, Godzilla and Star Trek are sci-fi they’re not really “hard” sci fi that makes you question what the future’s really going to be like or what the characters will be left with after the movie ends.

Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt plan for victory

Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt plan for victory

That’s why when I finally had the chance to catch up with the movie Edge of Tomorrow on home media I was so disappointment it did so poorly in theaters. Edge of Tomorrow is not only the best sci-fi movie I’ve seen in quite some time it’s also the first “hard” sci-fi movie I’ve seen in many years.

Plus Edge of Tomorrow features the first real glimpse we’ve ever got to see of a Starship Troopers-esque power-armor suit in a live action movie since, well, ever. The original 1997 Starship Troopers didn’t have the budget and 3D special effects were still too new to pull off power-armor and after no one else has really tried to show this since. But from the power-armor to the “drop” out of the transport I think that Edge of Tomorrow is the closest thing we’re going to get to the world of Starship Troopers until there’s another big-budget Starship Troopers movie.

Grade: A.

Edge of Tomorrow long trailer