Category Archives: philip k. dick

Author Frederik Pohl Passes at 93

There was a time in junior high school when I was devouring all the classic science fiction at the local small town library, or at least trying to. I was fascinated by Bradbury, found Asimov and Clarke far too obtuse, loved Ellison to death, dug Heinlein and Dick, and also really liked Frederik Pohl.

Besides Harlan Ellison, Pohl was one that entranced me into reading more of his work immediately. I spent some time exploring Gateway, Jem, and the secrets and stories of the Heechee. Fantastic stuff. I should give it another read after all this time. Two days ago, Pohl passed away at the age of 93. He’ll be missed.

Total Recall

Total Recall ~ I thought it might be worth taking another look at this 2012 remake of the 1990 scifi classic, especially in the light of seeing Iron Man Three and Star Trek Into Darkness, as well as anticipating Man of Steel later this month. All of these films have one thing in common. Everything you think you know is wrong, here’s the new spin, enjoy the irony and the fun references to what you thought was going on.

Anyone walking into Total Recall, or any of those other flicks, is going to get what they thought they would, and that’s part if the ride. And rollercoaster ride is principally what Total Recall is. It barely ever stops from start to finish, the action is full on forward, barely giving the viewer time to catch their breath.

Those expecting star Colin Farrell to play Arnold Schwarzeneggar are to be disappointed. This flick is both a remake of the 1990 film and loosely (as loosely as the original) based on the Philip K. Dick story, “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale.” Keep in mind, the original protagonist was based on Richard Dreyfus so Farrell is not right either. As far as cast goes however, only he and antagonist, Bryan Cranston of “Breaking Bad,” really shine.

The setting is different, rather than Mars, this is set fully on Earth, even as Earth as a tunnel through the world from London to Australia features solidly. It’s still a dystopian future, and our hero still has memory issues and may not be who he thinks he is. Same s#!t, different day, if you’ll pardon the expletive.

The references are plentiful and amusing, as long as you’re not a purist to the first movie, or the story. Just sit back, turn off your brain and enjoy the ride. I loved the flying car chase, amped up unbelievably over the one in The Fifth Element, and the more original vertical/horizontal elevator chase. Bring seat belts!

And if you’re a fan of Philip K. Dick, don’t forget about the Radio Free Albemuth Kickstarter, as mentioned on this week’s GAR! Podcast.

Atlas Shrugged: Part I

Atlas Shrugged: Part I ~ There is a small subset of science fiction writers whose work has reached out into areas so not in the fiction arena. There’s L. Ron Hubbard, a pulp, sci-fi, fantasy and adventure hack who set out purposefully to create his own religion – the notorious Scientology. And then there’s Ayn Rand, whose own personal madness fueled a more philosophical movement – Objectivism. All I have to say is thank God Philip K. Dick never decided to branch out into religion, philosophy or politics.

I loved Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead,” “Atlas Shrugged,” and even her lesser known work “Anthem,” but the whole Objectivism thing kinda leaves me cold. Of course the problem here is that the brilliant Atlas Shrugged is almost a monument to the movement. That said, I was very hesitant to see the film version, or at least the first part of a two-part (quite possibly three) film adaptation.

Released last year to art house theaters and not doing well financially at all (it cost $20 million to make yet made less than $5 million at the box office), Atlas Shrugged: Part I is still an amazing film. The story, that of a future society where the intellectuals have gone on theoretical strike and brought the world to a standstill, is staggering.

The film looks great, but the problem is with the execution. The actors, mostly unknowns and character. actors, have no charisma here, and coupled with Rand’s heavy handed dialogue, the beginning is all talk and almost sleep inducing. When I was paying attention, I felt like I was being lectured and browbeaten for being a capitalist. Not good. This is a subversive Wall Street, just without Michael Douglas, and without a soul.

When the story does begin to pick up and I started to warm to a couple of the characters, Ayn Rand’s bourgeois arrogance kicks in. It’s almost as if she’s making fun of the upper class, or more accurately those folk ridiculous enough to want to make a living. The attitude is enough to pull me out of the film and keep me from enjoying on any level. It’s very heavy handed.

Don’t get me wrong, like I said, I like Rand’s writing a lot but I just don’t like being preached at. I never felt that way on the page. And of course, as noted in the title itself, this is only part if the story. Atlas Shrugged: Part II, with an all new cast of better known actors, opens to art house theaters next week. I hope it will be more like Ayn Rand’s fiction and less like philosophies.

The Adjustment Bureau

The Adjustment Bureau ~ This is one of those movies that I really wish I didn’t know the premise of before I started watching it. The on-screen electricity between Matt Damon and Emily Blunt at the beginning of this flick is marred by knowing that their relationship is doomed. It made me sad that the bulk of the movie would be about them trying to get together and stay together while others pull them apart – when what I really wanted to see was them together and watching their romance bloom. Perhaps it’s something we can see when and if they are paired in another film, because they have chemistry, and it is sadly wasted here in this non-romance.

Now that is not to say this is a bad movie, it’s not, it just doesn’t play well with the abilities of the actors. Damon is good, Blunt is good, but they could have been great. The movie is scifi, not romance, and it’s based on the classic scifi story “Adjustment Team” by the late Philip K. Dick. The premise is that our lives are predetermined by Fate, and maintained by agents of Fate. If we veer off course, these agents step in and make sure all goes to plan. Damon and Blunt are not meant to be together – and it rolls from there, hilarity ensues, and the action begins.

Again, it’s no romance, more like another Bourne movie with a supernatural edge, but it’s good. John Slattery from “Mad Men” does a suitable imitation of that role as the leader of the ‘adjustment team.’ I also like team member Anthony Mackie, and it took me a while to figure out where I know him from. He’s been in the background of a million different things, nothing major, but I think he’s someone to watch.

All in all, it’s not a bad scifi flick, even though it quickly disintegrates into an action flick. Defnitely worth a watch, worth a rental or a pay-per-view. Good premise, good acting, and you just can’t beat Dick. Behave. You know what I mean. And watch out for the men in hats.

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Sweeney and the Chipmunks

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street ~ Now I loved the stage play, and the music and Angela Lansbury from that version so I had high expectations for this. And while I didn’t like it, it wasn’t for the reasons that all the other critics seemed to have. Even though I loved Ms. Lansbury, I really had no problem with Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs. Lovett or her singing, or Johnny Depp’s for that matter. I thought they were just fine. The atmosphere, and the coloring (solidly Tim Burton) were just about on target and the opening is one of the best mood setters for a film I have seen in a long time. My problem is that Sondheim’s score, which is dark and vibrant, different and brilliant – all appears to be one long droning song in this thing, and one that almost never ends. I don’t know what Burton did to Sondheim’s work but it’s butchered in my opinion. The other main obstacle I see here is that Burton seemed content to make a Tim Burton version of the play, rather than what he was supposed to do – make a film version of the play. Props for atmosphere, but that’s about it.

Dark Harbor ~ This is another loser from the insomnia club on Fearnet. A couple picks up a stranger as they vacation at a deserted island cabin. Predictable and sad, and probably the only time I’ve seen a bad performance from Alan Rickman. One of the most boring films I’ve seen recently.

Alvin and the Chipmunks ~ This could have been such a disaster but it turned out to be quite entertaining. The flick puts an updated spin on the old story of songwriter meets rodents. Featuring elements to entice both adults and children, whether you know the characters or not, I loved this. Yeah, it’s a bit predictable, but in a fun way, as opposed to the movie above. Any movie with the same bad guy (comedian David Cross) as Pootie Tang gets a thumbs up from me, and Jason Lee is fun as David Seville – although he has officially lost his street cred as a skater with this flick. Sometimes you can never go home again. My highest recommendation – I may buy this when it comes out on DVD.

Next ~ Another Philip K. Dick adaptation, this one has Nicholas Cage doing his best Nicholas Cage imitation as a stage magician who can see two minutes into the future. Well done scifi with lots of twists. Worth seeing.

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