S2E18: Catch-Up Episode #7: Sci-Fi Action Movies

S2E18: Catch-Up Episode #7: Sci-Fi Action Movies A Reader's History of Science Fiction

In this episode, I give an overview of recent action movies in the sci-fi genre. Movie recommendation: Everything Everywhere All at Once Other movies discussed: Tenet Free Guy The Matrix: Resurrections
  1. S2E18: Catch-Up Episode #7: Sci-Fi Action Movies
  2. S2E17: Science Fiction in Video Games
  3. S2E16: Catch-Up Episode #6: Children's Sci-Fi Movies
  4. S2E15: Religion in Sci-Fi
  5. S2E14: Margaret Weitekamp Interview

In this episode, I give an overview of recent action movies in the sci-fi genre.

Movie recommendation: Everything Everywhere All at Once

Other movies discussed:
Tenet
Free Guy
The Matrix: Resurrections

Check out this episode!

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S2E17: Science Fiction in Video Games

S2E18: Catch-Up Episode #7: Sci-Fi Action Movies A Reader's History of Science Fiction

In this episode, I give an overview of recent action movies in the sci-fi genre. Movie recommendation: Everything Everywhere All at Once Other movies discussed: Tenet Free Guy The Matrix: Resurrections
  1. S2E18: Catch-Up Episode #7: Sci-Fi Action Movies
  2. S2E17: Science Fiction in Video Games
  3. S2E16: Catch-Up Episode #6: Children's Sci-Fi Movies
  4. S2E15: Religion in Sci-Fi
  5. S2E14: Margaret Weitekamp Interview

In this episode, I bring back my cohost Greg for a conversion about how science fiction has shaped video games, and vice versa.

Classic game recommendation: Chrono Trigger

Ahoy finds the “first” video game.

Check out this episode!

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S2E16: Catch-Up Episode #6: Children’s Sci-Fi Movies

S2E18: Catch-Up Episode #7: Sci-Fi Action Movies A Reader's History of Science Fiction

In this episode, I give an overview of recent action movies in the sci-fi genre. Movie recommendation: Everything Everywhere All at Once Other movies discussed: Tenet Free Guy The Matrix: Resurrections
  1. S2E18: Catch-Up Episode #7: Sci-Fi Action Movies
  2. S2E17: Science Fiction in Video Games
  3. S2E16: Catch-Up Episode #6: Children's Sci-Fi Movies
  4. S2E15: Religion in Sci-Fi
  5. S2E14: Margaret Weitekamp Interview

I catch up on the sci-fi movies for kids that have come out in the pandemic era.

Movie recommendation: The Mitchells vs. the Machines

Background on Lightyear here and here.

Other films discussed:
Sonic the Hedgehog
Over the Moon
Flora and Ulysses
Space Jam: A New Legacy
Strange World
Lightyear

Check out this episode!

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S2E15: Religion in Sci-Fi

S2E18: Catch-Up Episode #7: Sci-Fi Action Movies A Reader's History of Science Fiction

In this episode, I give an overview of recent action movies in the sci-fi genre. Movie recommendation: Everything Everywhere All at Once Other movies discussed: Tenet Free Guy The Matrix: Resurrections
  1. S2E18: Catch-Up Episode #7: Sci-Fi Action Movies
  2. S2E17: Science Fiction in Video Games
  3. S2E16: Catch-Up Episode #6: Children's Sci-Fi Movies
  4. S2E15: Religion in Sci-Fi
  5. S2E14: Margaret Weitekamp Interview

In this episode, I give an overview of the different ways that religion and religious themes are used in science fiction.

Book recommendation: Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny

My review of A Case of Conscience.

Other works discussed:
Riverworld series by Philip Jose Farmer
A Case of Conscience by James Blish
Terra Ignota series by Ada Palmer

Check out this episode!

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New Video: The History of Christmas Music

I had a weird question for Christmas this year. How many “standard” Christmas songs are there? You know, the ones we sing over and over every year. I went through a bunch of playlists and compiled a master list, and I uncovered some interesting statistics along the way.

Also, you can listen to all of the songs in chronological order in my epic 7-hour playlist.

Check out Cheddar News’s history of Christmas music here.

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Movie Review: Avatar: The Way of Water

Well, it’s finally here. After 13 years, James Cameron has finally come out with the sequel to the highest-grossing movie of all time (despite being briefly eclipsed by Avengers: Endgame): Avatar. Originally projected for release in 2014, Avatar 2 has taken eight more years to finish and at last premiers this weekend as Avatar: The Way of Water.

It’s hard to overstate how big a deal the original Avatar was back in 2009. The hype was off the charts in a way that feels alien to me now, no pun intended. Don’t get me wrong; the hype around Avengers: Endgame was also huge, but I didn’t see articles about how people were depressed after seeing it because the real world was so dull in comparison. That is a thing that happened with Avatar that is still being remarked upon today.

The original Avatar was like nothing people had seen before. Cameron built a virtual world filled with realistic(-ish) life with its own evolutionary tree. He created a race of aliens with a distinctive culture and a real, learnable language. (Check out my interview with the creator of the Na’vi language here.) And all of it filmed in IMAX 3D. He wanted Pandora to be as real and immersive as possible, and he largely succeeded there.

Even so, I had to wonder if Cameron may have finally bitten off more than he can chew this time. Avatar, for all its spectacle, was criticized for a lackluster plot—not terrible by any means. It rates a solid 7-8 out of 10 on review sites—but not worthy of the cinematic effort that he put into it. And it was also criticized for being derivative. “Dances with Wolves in space” and “FernGully in space” were common comparisons. With The Way of Water being possibly the most expensive film every made, it doesn’t exactly have as strong a foundation as it could to earn back that investment.

Plus, I feel like the hype is not there—or wasn’t before the release. That may change as the reviews roll in. The hype for The Way of Water didn’t really start until about a month ago, in my estimation, and it doesn’t feel as big as it was for Endgame, or maybe even The Force Awakens. Maybe I’m biased because I cared more about those movies, or maybe I’m more disconnected from Hollywood after the pandemic, but I just wasn’t feeling it. Will the movie turn a profit? Very likely. Will it outdo the original? Color me skeptical.

But how was the movie? It was…better. It wasn’t top-notch, but it was better than Avatar 1.

My rating: 4 out of 5. (That is, an 8 out of 10, where I would have given the original Avatar a 6 or 7.)

(It’s kind of confusing because movies are rated out of 10, but books are rated out of 5.)

And yes, I did see it in 3D. Avatar started the 3D craze that began in 2009 once people realized that 3D movies had actually gotten good, so I figured I should at least go that far for The Way of Water (although I did not see it in IMAX).

Of course, the 3D craze fizzled out after a while, and I think it was for a reason. This is the first one I’ve seen since…How to Train Your Dragon 3, maybe? Honestly, I don’t think 3D adds that much. Even in 2D, if you see in on the big screen, your brain can fill in the rest.

Anyways, spoilers below.

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S2E14: Margaret Weitekamp Interview

S2E18: Catch-Up Episode #7: Sci-Fi Action Movies A Reader's History of Science Fiction

In this episode, I give an overview of recent action movies in the sci-fi genre. Movie recommendation: Everything Everywhere All at Once Other movies discussed: Tenet Free Guy The Matrix: Resurrections
  1. S2E18: Catch-Up Episode #7: Sci-Fi Action Movies
  2. S2E17: Science Fiction in Video Games
  3. S2E16: Catch-Up Episode #6: Children's Sci-Fi Movies
  4. S2E15: Religion in Sci-Fi
  5. S2E14: Margaret Weitekamp Interview

I interview Dr. Margaret Weitekamp, Curator and Chair of Space History at the National Air and Space Museum about her new book, Space Craze: America’s Enduring Fascination with Real and Imagined Spaceflight.

Media recommendation: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Check out this episode!

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Movie Review: Disney’s Strange World

So, this ended up being less of a review and more of a post-mortem, but this is where the post went when I decided to put my thoughts down.

Disney has put out its latest theatrical release this week with Strange World, and it has not gone well. The same studio that blew the doors off with Frozen II, turned a solid profit with Encanto, and at least made its budget back with Raya, seems to have fallen flat on its face with Strange World, pulling in only $30 million in the first week to a budget of $180 million.

How did this happen?

I’m going to avoid the politics of this film except to say that I feel like reviews don’t tell you anything useful anymore. Look at the audience (not critic) scores from three of the top sites. Rotten Tomatoes: 64%. Metacritic: 2.8/10. IMBD: 4.7/10. They’re all over the place. It’s the difference between them, not the absolute numbers, that make me suspect review bombing is involved (and I tend to suspect it on both sides).

What did I think of it myself? Honestly, I rather liked it.

My rating: 3.5 out of 5. Or I suppose 7/10. In fact, I’m tempted to bump it up to 4, but there were a couple of structural issues that led me to downgrade it.

But what actually happened here?

Spoilers below.

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S2E13: Gary Bengier Interview

S2E18: Catch-Up Episode #7: Sci-Fi Action Movies A Reader's History of Science Fiction

In this episode, I give an overview of recent action movies in the sci-fi genre. Movie recommendation: Everything Everywhere All at Once Other movies discussed: Tenet Free Guy The Matrix: Resurrections
  1. S2E18: Catch-Up Episode #7: Sci-Fi Action Movies
  2. S2E17: Science Fiction in Video Games
  3. S2E16: Catch-Up Episode #6: Children's Sci-Fi Movies
  4. S2E15: Religion in Sci-Fi
  5. S2E14: Margaret Weitekamp Interview

In this episode, I interview Gary Bengier, former CFO of eBay and author of Unfettered Journey, a novel about philosophy and artificial intelligence.

Gary’s book recommendation:
Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky

Check out this episode!

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Movie Review: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is the much-anticipated sequel to Marvel’s hit 2018 film Black Panther (and also the end of the MCU’s Phase Four). We return to a Wakanda that is reeling from the sudden death of King T’Challa and facing new threats looming on the horizon—namely world powers that will do anything to get their hands on Wakanda’s rare and powerful Vibranium and one very grumpy fish-man who doesn’t want the Surface World encroaching on his domain.

And this was surely a difficult movie to make, marred as it was by the tragic death of the series’s lead actor, Chadwick Boseman, in 2020. Instead of T’Challa’s triumphant return, the movie became in many ways a tribute to Boseman, told through the grief of the characters. It’s something that very easily could have gone wrong with a script that clumsily played find-and-replace with the main character…but it didn’t.

This move was very good. In fact, I think it was even better than the first Black Panther. I gave that one full marks when I reviewed it, but I also said it wasn’t off the charts like Infinity War and Endgame were. There was still room for improvement, and Wakanda Forever did that.

My rating: 5 out of 5.

Spoilers below.


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