Martian Time-Slip” (1964) is set on the frontier of Mars, so naturally – this being a Philip K. Dick novel – it’s about … the nature of schizophrenia. Granted, the setting isn’t totally random, but it’s interesting that PKD goes to Mars and a 1994 future where Earth has become overpopulated in order to tell a timeless story about the subjective natures of time and perspective. Sometimes you have to go crazy before you can be sane, repairman Jack Bohlen learns, and the wild sci-fi ideas are in service of his search for simplicity and sanity.
Scrolling through options under a “David Mamet” search on my Roku, “Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay” (2012) comes up a lot. (It’s currently available for free with ads on Vudu.) It’s only tangential to Mamet, who is one of the interview subjects in the documentary. But Jay (1946-2018), like Mamet, is fascinating to listen to when he talks about his craft, so this will likely be of interest to both Mamet fans and magic fans.
Ifeel a little sorry for the “Fantastic Four” franchise. The 2005 and 2007 entries are competent children’s movies that failed to catch fire at a time when adult superhero movies were taking off. For the 2015 “Fantastic Four” – which I’ll call “Fant4stic,” based on the logo — director/co-writer Josh Trank (“Chronicle”) and co-writers Jeremy Slater and Simon Kinberg craft an adult superhero film, going for a brooding tone that would make Zack Snyder proud, complemented by dimly lit cinematography by Matthew Jensen. Unfortunately, this was a time when people were digging the comedic side of the trend-setting Marvel Cinematic Universe. This property can’t get the timing right.
The Matrix” (1999) is one of those sci-fi films that rewards people paying close attention; to understand the specifics of the world is to feel like we’ve become a smarter person. It’s a challenging task, but doable. “The Matrix Reloaded” (2003), on the other hand, calls out for one of those “Movie Explained” YouTube videos that are so ubiquitous nowadays.
The Terror” was one of the most gripping series of 2018, a rare horror TV show that maintains a creepy aura even with the escape provided by commercial breaks. It’s slow-paced, and it doesn’t stick the landing, so it barely missed my end-of-year list. But I’m happy to return for “The Terror: Infamy” (Mondays on AMC).
Because the five volumes of “The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick” have been reprinted many times under many different names, I’m referring to them here by their volume number, which is what they are known by in their original 1987 publication by Underwood-Miller.
Oleanna” (1994) might be writer-director David Mamet’s most divisive film. It examines the important issue of whether college should still be a revered institution, but it’s also hard to watch at times, as it’s essentially a 90-minute awkward-conversation-turned-argument between professor John (William H. Macy) and student Carol (Debra Eisenstadt). It presents points of view that will likely get viewers’ blood boiling, especially when Carol flips the script and starts lecturing her teacher on how to behave – while she’s backed by the very institution that had afforded John a career doing what he loves.
Working from a screenplay by returning writer David S. Goyer, Guillermo del Toro probably didn’t know it at the time, but he directs “Blade II” (2002) as a trial run for “The Strain,” his 2014-17 TV series. The creature effects are strikingly similar across both projects, namely the next strain of vampires. In “Blade II,” their human mouths open “Predator”-style, and in “The Strain,” they reveal tubes that can strike from a distance — “Alien”-style, to the extreme.
The 2010s have been the decade of nostalgia, so much so that a genuine feeling of nostalgia doesn’t come up much anymore. The existence of – and the experience of watching – “BH90210” (Wednesdays on Fox) is a case in point. Seeing all seven major living actors from “Beverly Hills, 90210” (1990-2000, Fox) on screen together, as well as Tori Spelling and Jennie Garth watching the original show late in the pilot episode, does indeed kind of make me want to rewatch the original.
As far as movies about high school graduates facing the real world go, there are better entries than “Reality Bites” (1994). “Ghost World” (2001) particularly digs into the conflict between the responsibility of being an adult member of society and being true to yourself, and how irreconcilable that conflict can feel to a young person. Breezy by comparison, “Reality Bites” only touches on those issues, and it ultimately boils down to a love story between Winona Ryder’s Lelaina and Ethan Hawke’s Troy. But that’s not nothing.