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The Colony

Review, sci-fi, Theatrical, This Week Leave a Comment

Another day, another vision of the end of the world as we know it. Generations after the richest of humanity fled the dying Earth for a new interstellar home, a team is sent back to discern if it is once again suitable for human habitation, as infertility could spell the end of their time elsewhere.

The sophomore feature of Swiss director/co-writer Tim Fehlbaum, after his matter-of-factly-named debut a decade earlier with Apocalypse, The Colony is reminiscent of a fair amount of modern sci-fi cinema, yet it struggles to maintain either its own identity or even its own entertainment value.

The visual palette courtesy of cinematographer Markus Förderer seems designed solely to appeal to those who get horny over literal shades of grey (with the odd bit of flesh tone and lightest of blues thrown in). In depicting the swamplands of evacuated Earth, it becomes difficult to focus on what’s being shown after a while, as if the film is intentionally trying to make the audience’s eyes glaze over. When it’s not trying to discombobulate through the claustrophobic use of handheld camera work, that is.

The story at large, centered on Blake (Nora Arnezeder) as the last survivor of the second manned mission back to Earth, emphasises the tentative future of the human race through dramatic revelations about families, children, and Blake’s own relationship with her father (connecting this to the larger ‘Daddy In Space’ trend that has been occupying Hollywood since Interstellar).

However, rather than adding to the thematic textures already present in the story, it comes across more like the residents of Planet Erf from Beyond Thunderdome found their way onto the set of Waterworld.

It makes the mistake of introducing multiple ideas, including space colonialism, the separate dialect of the new Earth-dwellers, and bits of 1%-er hypocrisies through the repeated chants of “for the many”, but rather than fleshing them out, it just leaves them to introduce even more ideas to give the illusion of depth without actually creating the layers required.

It doesn’t help that the actors carrying this production (and with how drab everything is, they need to do so) aren’t all that interesting either. Arnezeder starts out rather stiff in the lead and largely stays there, never managing to bring the sense of strength and determination it calls for, while the myriad of child actors exist more as outgrowths of the story than as sentient human beings. To say nothing of Iain Glen’s later appearance, which almost makes his turn in Resident Evil: The Final Chapter seem like a step-up, as at least he had fun in that film; and Joel Basman as his right-hand-man and general embodiment of how ugly humanity turns out in just about all apocalyptic fiction, requisite sexual assault scene included. Stay classy.

The Colony is, at the risk of sounding crass, rather colon-y when all is said and done. A flat and rather disappointing feature that only manages to avoid offense of taste and mannerism purely because it’s too dull to create even that much of a reaction. It’s the kind of film you don’t forget about right after watching it, but while in the middle of watching it.

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Trailer: Finch

Tom Hanks, a robot (voiced by Caleb Landry Jones) and a dog navigate their way in a world that has been decimated by climate change.
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Trailer: The Matrix Resurrections

Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss are back, with a supporting cast that includes Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Candyman) as young Morpheus, Jessica Henwick (Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens), Jonathan Groff (Mindhunter), Neil Patrick Harris, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Christina Ricci, Jada Pinkett Smith and lots of people from Sense8. Let's hope this is much more satisfying than the 2 sequels.
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Teaser Trailer: Moonfall

This looks like it was made in lockdown - Roland Emmerich's CGI-heavy disaster flick starring Halle Berry as a NASA exec and former astronaut who has the key to saving humanity after the Moon is knocked from its orbit with Earth. Also stars Patrick Wilson, Michael Pena, Charlie Plummer, Kelly Yu, John Bradley and Donald Sutherland.
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Astro Loco

Australian, Home, Review, sci-fi, Streaming, Television, This Week Leave a Comment

The year is 2074 and the transportation vessel, Araya, is making its way to Jupiter IV to expand an ongoing mining project. Funded by the Zorptec corporation, Araya’s crew have reached that point in any long journey where you hit the sweet spot between boredom and utter exasperation in your fellow human beings.

Melbourne director and writer Aaron McJames introduces the team as they play a board game of their own invention. Its rules are unknown to the audience and clearly cobbled together from other games the crew have long since grown tired of. It’s clear they are trying to make ends meet. Attempts to get everyone to partake in team-building exercises by Captain Odd (Frank Handrum) essentially end with him nearly crippling himself. Everyone is just done.

That includes the ship’s AI, Hetfield (Jon Reep, Eastbound and Down). Seeking meaning in a godless universe, Hetfield is preoccupied with the fact that he’s just not cut out to support the people under his care. Hell, he’s begun to burn breakfast.

Astro Loco mines a lot of its humour from here, as Hetfield turns to the humans for lessons in how to be human, including philosophy, meditation and doing good deeds. Even Araya’s onboard counsellor Lucien (David Argue) is trying his best to soothe Hetfield.

There are hints early in the narrative that all is not right with the mission. The first is a communication from earth suggesting some team members will have to be made redundant without actually advising how said employees will actually get back to Earth. Elsewhere, there’s a glowing meteor playing havoc with Hetfield, Captain Odd’s increasing insanity, and a vessel floating in space that looks just like the Araya.

Sharing DNA with John Carpenter’s Dark Star and the office politics of sitcom Red Dwarf, Astro Loco uses its modest budget to tell a story that feels less about solving problems and more about people trying to solve those problems. As the crew squabble amongst themselves and, in some cases, use cabin fever to climb the corporate ladder, their lack of awareness means that bigger, deathlier problems can sneak in through the back door.

McJames clearly loves his characters and wears his appreciation of sci-fi on his sleeve. His Araya is a lived-in and smelly ship, and you can feel the crew’s need to escape their current situation in every frame. Your mileage may vary, but if you are willing to turn on, tune in and drop out, than Astro Loco might just be the trip you need.

Find it on Prime here.

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Star Trek: Lower Decks – Season 2

animation, Comedy, Home, Prime Video, Review, sci-fi, Streaming, This Week Leave a Comment

After a slightly inconsistent first season, Star Trek’s newest animated series, the aptly named Lower Decks, returns with an unapologetic nosedive into the more absurdist culture of Easter-eggs, running gags and what the show’s relatable band of rogues affectionately call ‘Sci-fi stuff’. In fact, with the first four episodes of the show released to critics, if one were to create a drinking game based on references to previous Star Trek incarnations, one would be suffering severe liver damage within hours. And while it’s a lot of fun, even for the casual viewer, Lower Decks definitely caters to Trek fans with a decent understanding of the franchise and its past 50+ years.

A notable improvement on the first season is the voice acting, with the primary cast seemingly having found their grooves, grounding their respective characters with more nuanced and balanced performances, which essentially helps create more of that familiar Star Trek we’re-all-in-this-together atmosphere that served the likes of The Next Generation and Voyager so well. Speaking of which, dedicated fans will be pleased to note that Trek alums Jonathan Frakes (William Riker) and Robert Duncan McNeill (Tom Paris) make some fantastically satirical cameos in what would seem to be a new Lower Decks institution.

As for this season’s overall story arc, Lower Decks is again focusing on the personal growth of The Cerritos’ lower ranked crew members, with interpersonal relationships, self-awareness and mundane catastrophes taking precedence over the geo-political galactic turmoil playing out in the background. Which thankfully makes for genuinely heartfelt moments to counterbalance the constant onslaught of jokes and unapologetic puns.

Although Trekkers will undoubtedly adore Lower Decks’ sophomore season, it has to be said that animation fans who lean more toward Rick & Morty, or even Family Guy may not find the series quite edgy enough. But, judging by the first few episodes, what Lower Decks lacks in edge is more than compensated for in comedy, action and all the ‘sci-fi stuff’ you could ask for.

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Trailer: Ivan Sen’s Loveland

It's been 5 years since Sen's last feature Goldstone, and he's come up with something completely different here, a shot in Hong Kong futuristic love story starring Ryan Kwanten, Hugo Weaving and Jillian Nguyen. Looks like visionary, moody and poetic storytelling, and a potential step onto the international stage for the Australian filmmaker.