The Sci-Fi Block has had a weird and rocky past couple of years. After several years of regular and increasing activity, the site went through a period marked by sparse updates. Then, my professional life fell back into a place where I could come back to at least cover the biggest sci-fi film releases, offering primarily film reviews much like the earliest days of the site. It felt good. Then, less than a month later, due to my lack of backend maintenance, SFB basically broke.
By now you've heard the sad news that Roger Ebert has passed away at the age of 70 from the cancer he struggled with since 2002. I have little to add to the recent discussion and praise of his life's work, but at the same time, I couldn't avoid making a brief post about the man who I believe was the best at the thing I love doing so much--reviewing movies.
G.I. Joe has never been known to deliver smart cinematic experiences. It has, however, generally delivered fun ones. Now comes G.I. Joe: Retaliation, which is neither smart nor fun. It falls into the trap that of thinking that action and espionage is inherently interesting, regardless of how it is delivered. So, it throws guns, ninjas, and explosions into a frequently nonsensical story, displays everything haphazardly, and waits for its ingredients to somehow enthrall those who watch them.
I owe an apology and an explanation to those who used to read this website. As you've probably noticed if you're reading this post, it's been a almost six months since I've posted new content of any sort, and over seven since I've posted a film review--the type of content this site lives on.
Update 11/26/2012: The Lexicon is officially released (and makes a great Christmas present)! To order yours, go to Amazon.com.
Sometimes I feel like I’m beginning to repeat myself across certain film reviews. Then I realize it’s not so much me repeating myself as it is me describing and criticizing works that are themselves part of a repetitive cycle. The cycle is this: Movie attaches itself to a well-known property, movie purports to be a story about some issue relevant to society or humanity, and movie ends up drowning any such concerns beneath more visceral elements that, unfortunately, are rarely inventive.
The makers of The Amazing Spider-Man, a reboot of the Spider-Man film franchise, understand that it’s not enough for superhero movies to be based solely on popular characters. They have that going for them. However, despite having clearly the best intentions in crafting a meaningful story for the hero of this film, they faltered. Though it begins promisingly enough, it turns into generic territory half-way through its run time and never comes back.
The Alien films comprise one of the most famous and loved sci-fi franchises of them all, even though half or more of its installments (depending on how you count them) are mediocre. The only redeeming quality of Alien3 was its contribution to Alien lore, and Alien: Resurrection, though underrated, is still nowhere near the quality of the first two films.
There is a character in Men in Black 3 who can see all points of time and all possibilities of time at once. Occasionally he remarks about the joy of observing a monumental occurrence that came to pass purely because various other, seemingly inconsequential events also happened to occur at just the right place and time. The character, Griffin, could almost be referencing Men in Black 3 itself. This film manages to take multiple disparate elements and weave them together in a way that creates a work both moving and thought-provoking.
I try to be constructive in my movie reviews. Writing scathing criticisms can be fun, but, call me a nice guy, I like to pick things apart in workshop fashion. Now and then I succumb to the temptation of a good insult, but for the most part I try to stay positive in explaining why certain elements of certain films don’t work. If I took that approach to Battleship, I wouldn’t be able to write the review. The only thing saving this film from becoming the next Battlefield Earth is the fact that it received such little pre-release hype.