Today’s post is going to be short and sweet because I will (hopefully) be following up on it at least once this autumn.
Over the past few months I’ve been working ahead on blog posts as ideas pop into my mind and I have the time to write them.
Right now I’m thinking about Thanksgiving films. I’ve reviewed many stories set during Halloween and various winter holidays, but I haven’t done the same thing for Thanksgiving yet.
This is something I want to change in October for Canadian Thanksgiving or November for American Thanksgiving. Maybe I’ll even be able to review films for both of these holidays!
The rules are simple.
Rule #1: The film should be at least loosely related to any speculative fiction genre: science fiction, fantasy, horror, paranormal, alternate history, etc. so that it will fit the theme of this blog. I am willing to stretch these terms to include films that might only brush against these genres lightly if you say they’re great stories.
Rule #2: The film should be something I can access legally by either purchasing it online or watching it on a streaming service. This isn’t something I’m ethically comfortable compromising on.
The films I’m currently considering, assuming I can procure copies of them, include the following:
Addams Family Values (1993)
Jim Henson’s Turkey Hollow(2015)
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973)
A Thanksgiving Tale (1983)
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)
As you may have noticed, the year a film was originally released doesn’t matter. While everything on this list happens to be in English, I also have no problem watching something with subtitles if someone recommends a film that includes that.
I have two questions for my readers as I work on this project.
Content warning: blood and death of an animal. I will make one brief reference to the former and will not discuss the latter at all in this post.
Life is a 2017 American science fiction horror film about a six-member crew of the International Space Station that discovers the first evidence of extraterrestrial life on Mars.
Unlike Europa Report, this film makes very few assumptions about what its audience already knows about NASA, space flight, or what life might be like on other planets. This isn’t a criticism, but I’d classify it as something closer to the horror or thriller genres than hard science fiction.
Dr. David Jordan was from the USA and was the ISS medical officer.
He was so focused on his job that it sometimes negatively affected his physical and mental health. While his bedside manner was impeccable, I think I’d want him to have a nap and a hot meal before he treated me for anything more serious than a sprained ankle.
Dr. Miranda North was from the UK and was the CDC quarantine officer.
She was the sort of person who would double-check even the most mundane of tasks after completing them. This was sometimes a source of mild annoyance to her coworkers, but it’s exactly the sort of behaviour I’d want to see if I were working with an alien life form!
Rory Adams was from the USA and was the ISS engineer.
He was the jokester of this mission. His teasing was good-natured but could sometimes push the envelope a little bit too far because of how impulsive he could be.
Sho Murakami was from Japan and was the ISS systems engineer.
He was a warm, kind man who truly cared about his fellow crew members. Out of everyone on the space station, he seemed to be the person who was most strongly connected to his loved ones back on Earth.
Dr. Hugh Derry was from the UK and was the ISS exobiologist.
He was a trusting man who assumed the best in himself and everyone around him. One of my favourite moments in this tale happened when he shared a story from his childhood that I can’t repeat here without giving away spoilers. It was fascinating.
Ekaterina was from Russia and was the ISS Mission Commander.
She was professional and shared almost nothing about her personal life or backstory during the course of this film. One notable thing I can say about her is that she took her crew’s safety quite seriously.
Raise your hand if you love imagining what life on other planets might be like!
I don’t know about all of you, but I never grow tired of picturing what we’ll see on our screens if NASA ever calls a press conference to announce that they’ve found life on Mars, Europa, or some other place in the galaxy.
So of course I had to watch and review Life when I found out about it. While the discovery in this story isn’t of a little green man, it’s still something pretty spectacular. The trailer at the bottom of this post will give you a glimpse of it. For the sake of avoiding spoilers, I won’t go into much more detail about it other than to say that just because a creature is small doesn’t mean it’s harmless.
One of the things that I would have liked to seen done differently with this film had to do with how physically dark it was. While the plot was thematically dark, too, that’s not what I’m talking about here. I would have loved to see more lighting in the scenes, especially in the beginning. I ended up needing to turn off the lights in my house in order to properly see what was happening in the opening scenes as the characters introduced us to their work environment and gave us the first glimpse of the little alien.
Speaking of the plot, the horror themes were strong in it even though the main storyline was definitely science fiction. The scenes involving blood were brief and only happened occasionally, but this is still something I’d only recommend to people who like horror in general because of how much it affected the way the plot unfolded.
I was pleased with how much thought the screenwriters put into how the International Space Station would realistically react to the discovery of life that isn’t from Earth. While this would obviously be an incredibly exciting discovery, it could also be possibly dangerous. We have no way of knowing ahead of time how such creatures would react to us, if they pose a threat to our health, or if we might pose a threat to their health as well.
So it was nice to see the astronauts take this discovery seriously. They talked extensively about the precautions they took to avoid unnecessary exposure to this alien until they knew more about what it was and how its body worked.
As someone who has seen countless horror and science fiction films, I was able to figure out the twists in it pretty early on. It would have been nice to have more surprises thrown in along the way, especially when it came to how the astronauts reacted once things began to go horribly wrong for them. Their reactions were pretty predictable once the pacing sped up.
With that being said, this was still something worth watching. I liked all of the characters and thought their camaraderie was written into the script nicely. They obviously didn’t have much time to do non-work activities, especially once they made their big discovery, but I did come away from this story with a sense of satisfaction. I got to know them just well enough to genuinely care about what happened to them, and that’s always important in this sort of tale.
If you love horror, outer space, or thrillers, this film might be right up your alley!
Raise your hand if you love rewatching your old favourite sci-fi and fantasy shows!
Over the last few months, I’ve slowly become more reticent about watching new films and TV shows in these genres.
I’m sure many of them are going to be amazing once I return to chipping away at my humongous to-watch queue, but for now I’m much more interested in rewatching stories I’ve seen dozens of time before.
Keep scrolling for spoiler-free references to some of my favourite
Familiar Plot Twists
Okay, so don’t laugh at me, but I get pretty attached to certain characters. I cheer when they reach their goals and cry when sad things happen to them.
Empathy is a gift, but there are also times when I’d rather not ride the emotional rollercoaster of are these characters going to be okay?
Yes, most of them will be fine by the time the credits roll. But thanks to earlier experiences with Joss Whedon and the unpredictable things he likes to do with the lives of beloved characters, I don’t fully trust any director or screenwriter when my favourites are involved.
The beautiful thing about rewatching something you’ve seen many times before is that there are no big surprises around the corner. You might forget a funny line here or a minor plot twist there if it’s been a while, but for the most part you roll the opening credits knowing full well what’s to come.
There’s something soothing about that, especially when other things in life might not be so predictable.
Predictions That Do (or Don’t) Come True
Speaking of predictions, the science fiction genre in particular is filled with them.
I’m the sort of viewer who takes note of what fellow storytellers in this genre think will happen in the near future and then likes to check again five or ten or twenty years later to see what they might have gotten right.
Fashion trends of future decades have never been accurate in my experience. (Here’s looking at you, 2015 scenes in Back to the Future Part II!)
But some films do predict the future more accurately. Rediscovering those scenes is like finding buried treasure.
Jokes That Never Get Old
If you ask me, the best films and TV shows are the ones that still make you laugh the third or thirtieth time you see them. Case in point: The Princess Bride. This fairy tale was framed as something a grandfather was reading to his sick grandson.
A few minutes into Princess Buttercup’s adventures, the kid interrupted to ask if it was a kissing book.
As someone who avoided kissing books as a kid and rarely reads them as an adult, I laugh every time I hear this line. It’s classic.
New Details in the Story
Anyone who has followed this blog for a long time may remember my love of the paranormal film The Others.
(Someday I need to write a full-length review of it for this site! It’s a modern-day classic).
The first time I watched this film, I missed the major plot twist in it until the last possible moment.
It was only after rewatching it that I picked up on the clues about what was really going on with the main character and her two young children who were living in a remote house during the World War II era while waiting to hear news about her husband who was on the front lines of the war.
This was always a good story, but it became even better once I knew what on Earth was going on with this strange, reclusive family. Every time I rewatch it, I pick up on even more subtle foreshadowing or small moments of character development I hadn’t noticed in the past.
What are your favourite science fiction, fantasy, or other speculative fiction shows to rewatch?
Content warning: death of a pet and blood. I will not be discussing these things in my review.
I Am Mother is a 2019 Australian science fiction thriller about a human girl who was raised by a robot that was designed to repopulate the Earth after some sort of extinction event.
The characters in this tale don’t have conventional names like you or I do. Instead, the human child is called Daughter and the robot who raised her is called Mother.
While Daughter is well cared for, her isolation not only from other people but from anything outside of their isolation bunker is absolute.
Mother insists it isn’t safe out there, and her word is law.
Daughter was an intelligent and thoughtful young woman. She’d previously been obedient of Mother’s wishes, but her curiosity about what life was like outside of the UNU-HWK_Repopulation Facility and dissatisfation with what her mother told her about it was growing stronger by the way.
Mother the robot who had raised Daughter and who was making preparations for the next human infant she’d take responsibility for. She was strict and protective of her daughter. While Daughter’s health and happiness was important to her, she refused to compromise on any of the rules she’d come up with on how best to raise a human child in a post-apocalyptic environment.
Woman was the injured, dying stranger who stumbled upon the bunker one day. She’d lived a life filled with fear and danger. Every move she made was calculated to give her the highest probability of surviving just one more day.
Just like with Annihilation, my biggest reason for wanting to watch this film had to do with the fact that all of the main characters in it were women. All of the science fiction films I grew up watching were male dominated. Some of them were comprised of nothing but dudes. Others might have as many as one female hero for every three, four, or five male heroes.
I’m elated to see this changing, and I’ll continue to highlight science fiction films that change those old norms as I find them.
You may have noticed that the cast for “I Am Mother” is pretty small. No, I didn’t leave anyone out to avoid sharing spoilers. This tale was so tightly woven around the fates of the three main characters that they seemed like the perfect number of players for the plot.
Mother, Daughter, and Woman were three complex individuals whose goals sometimes clashed sharply. Finding a solution to their conflicts that satisfied all three of them would be a herculean task at best because of how differently they all measured success and how much friction existed between what everyone wanted.
No, I can’t go into more details about that without giving you spoilers. It is definitely something that’s worth exploring for yourself, though. I’m the sort of viewer who picks one character – not necessarily the hero, mind you – and spends the entire film hoping she will succeed. In this case, my loyalties shifted from one scene to the next.
One of my strengths as a viewer is that I always want more information about the science in science fiction, so there were a few things about Daughter’s upbringing that I wish had been addressed with a bit more detail. For example, how was Mother planning to keep her immune system strong when the girl had never been exposed to any outside germs? Were there vaccines for every possible virus and bacteria in this world? How did Daughter get sufficient vitamin D when she’d never been outside and ate what appeared to be a somewhat monotonous diet?
These weren’t exactly criticisms, though, because I came to easily accept other parts of her existence that were spaced even further away from our current scientific understanding of human biology and growth patterns. I strongly suspect that wondering about how this stuff actually worked, alongside many other questions this story brings up, is something the filmmakers did on purpose for their audience.
Some questions become more interesting if you’re not spoon-fed answers to them, especially since the mystery elements of the plot were so simple to put together in my experience. There were plenty of clues about what was really happening with Mother and Daughter for anyone who pays attention to what they’re watching and thinks critically about it.
I figured out the mystery pretty early on. What was compelling about it was seeing how Daughter reacted to the clues she also had access to and what happened when she realized that the information she already had wasn’t fitting together the way it should.
Something was missing.
I’ll leave it up to my readers to discover what that something was. What I will say is that this is a film I’d happily watch again. It was simply that well written and thought provoking.
Frozen II is the 2019 animated fantasy sequel to Frozen. It is about Elsa and Anna’s attempts to figure out the origin of Elsa’s magical powers and save their kingdom from being destroyed by the elemental spirits of Earth, Fire, Water, and Air.
It isn’t strictly necessary to watch Frozen before checking out Frozen II, but I do highly recommend the first film in this series to anyone who loves the fantasy genre or animated films in general.
In order to avoid spoilers, I will only be discussing characters who were also in Frozen.
Elsa was the Queen of Arendelle and Princess Anna’s elder sister. She possessed magical ice powers whose origins were unknown. While she’d grown quite comfortable with using them, she had a deep longing to understand where they came from and why she had them.
Anna was the Princess of Arendelle and Elsa’s younger sister. She was deeply in love with her boyfriend, Kristoff.
Olaf was a sentient snowman created by Elsa’s magic who was first introduced in Frozen. He was as intelligent and silly as always.
Kristoff was an ice harvester and Anna’s boyfriend. He was strong, loyal, and determined to help the people he cared about in any way he could.
Sven was his pet reindeer. He was a good reindeer.
Prepare yourselves for a story filled with wholesomeness and joy.
I love a good adventure that ramps up quickly in a storyline, so I was glad to see this film move so fast in the beginning. That snappy pacing was exactly what Elsa, Anna, Olaf, Kristoff, and Sven needed before setting off on their journey.
Yes, there was a brief summary of what happened in Frozen for anyone who isn’t familiar with this franchise. It was shared by Olaf and was as hilarious as it was accurate. As mentioned earlier, I think anyone who hasn’t seen the first film would have no trouble getting caught up to speed if they jumped straight into Frozen II. The nice thing about film series written for kids is that they tend to be pretty welcoming of new or distracted viewers, and this one was no exception to that rule.
Every sequel has to live up to the story that began that series. I had high expectations for Frozen II based on how much I loved Frozen. While this was a fun story, I thought it didn’t quite have all of the magic of the first one. Many of the jokes in it were references to things that happened in the first instalment, so they had to be explained for people just tuning into this series. I did find myself wishing the screenwriters had spent more time developing new, original jokes, especially when it came to characters that hadn’t been introduced previously. With that being said, I still enjoyed Frozen II and do recommend it.
Olaf was by far my favourite part of this film. Just like in Frozen, he was a regular source of amusement for both the audience and the other characters. His understanding of how the world works was childlike in certain ways and yet quite mature for a snowman of his age in others. I desperately wanted to include one of his jokes in this review, but I think it’s best if you discover all of them for yourselves.
If you need a lighthearted distraction for viewers of all ages, Frozen II is a good place to start.
Frozen II is available on Netflix and Apple TV. It is no doubt quickly attempting to catch up with Frozen and become available everywhere else in the known universe as well.
Content warning: death of a parent, police violence and gun violence. I will be discussing the last two items in this list in my review. See You Yesterday is a 2019 science fiction film about C.J. and Sebastian, two high school students who are best friends, fellow science enthusiasts, and inventors. Their latest invention is… Read More
Content warning: snakes and bugs. I will not be discussing these topics in my review. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a 2017 fantasy, action, and comedic film about four high school students who were accidentally transported into a magical video game and needed to beat every level of it in order to get back to… Read More
Content warning: racism, sexism, a few brief scenes involving blood, death of a pet, and sexual harassment. I will only mention the first three items in this list in my review. The Shape of Water is a dark fantasy romance about a lonely janitor who falls in love with an amphibious humanoid creature who is being… Read More
Content warning: Found footage and mental illness. I will be discussing these things later on in this post. Europa Report is a 2013 science fiction film about an international group of astronauts who are sent on an expedition to Jupiter’s fourth largest moon, Europa, to see if they can find any evidence of life there.… Read More
Content Warning: Blood and a dysfunctional family. I will be briefly mentioning these things in my review. Krampus is a 2015 dark fantasy horror comedy film about a young boy named Max who has a disappointing Christmas with his argumentative, dysfunctional relatives and accidentally summons a festive demon to his home as a result of it.… Read More