Symptom 121: Look! In The Sky, A Super Volcano!

Fact: Yellowstone National Park contains a Super Volcano

Fact: Super Volcanoes are many times more deadly than a Volcano

Fact: Yellowstone has had super eruptions before.

Fact: It is overdue and will happen again.

Not so fast Dwight Schrute. The first three are facts. The last one, not so much. But don’t tell the writers of what is now available on Netflix - Super Volcano. They assert it is just a mater or time and then try to convince you that the worst possible scenario will also happen. The result is, well, Super Volcano.

Fact: I like The Office way too much.

Symptom 120: Solaris, Not Love In Space

We conclude James Cameron July with a discussion of the film Solaris. If you like slow, heady, philosophical looks at the human condition, the criteria of life, love and mental realities we create, this is the film for you. If you like action, this is certainly not it. Solaris asks questions about the reliability of memory, the filtering impact time has, how well do we truly know our friends, family and spouses, do we love and remember the real person or a stylized version of that person, as well as dabbling in the criteria of what is and is not sapient life and what rights it has. Solaris is slow, but if like movies that ask big questions and let you draw your own answers, this is science fiction at its best.

Symptom 119: Cameron Under The Sea

James Cameron July continues as we discuss The Abyss. This movie isn’t dated at all. Fears of Russian military attacks, nuclear submarines, it doesn’t scream 1980’s at all. That aside, this film is a testament to old school film making, with a focus on character, tension and score that is epic and on point. While there are clearly plot holes and this isn’t his best work, The Abyss is a quality film. The problem with this film is that it is not memorable. It simply exists. It is the Vanilla Ice cream of the movie world. No matter how high quality vanilla ice cream is, it is still just vanilla ice cream.

Symptom 118: Avatar, Lakota In Space

We kick off James Cameron July by discussing the blockbuster hit Avatar. You can blast this movie for many things, ripping of Dances With Wolves, a weak plot, average acting, boring and under developed characters, but it was undeniably a financial and artistic success. Avatar set records at the box office and revolutionized film making with innovative use of CGI and 3D. This movie is a decade old and is of higher quality in those areas than films made today. It is also a tremendous achievement in world building. It is a shame that this master class in the usage of CGI, 3D, score and world building was not paired with a more fully developed and original script.

Symptom 115: Next Stop, The Wandering Earth

Explosions. Bad science. An idiotic premise. Generic, repetitive score. Bad acting. A weak, clunky plot. The Wandering Earth has it ALL. Or nothing. I guess it depends on what you are looking for in a movie. The Wandering Earth starts off with the premise that the sun will have a helium flash and turn into a red giant, a couple billion years early. To avoid certain death the Earth will be turned in a generational star ship by putting engines all over the surface. It will then fly to Alpha Centauri over 2500 years. The rest of the movie is downhill from.

While there some nice notes about how humanity might unify in the face of a crisis, far to little time is spent on that and far to much time on pointless action. This movie sucks and is the modern Armageddon, with less believable science.

Symptom 113: Avengers Endgame

A little late, but we wanted to give everyone time to see the movie so that we could do what we do and give spoilers. Ok, if you haven’t seen the movie, stop reading, seriously, stop reading now, because fat Thor was amazing!.

Enggame was a masterclass for wrapping up multiple storylines while setting up the playing field for whatever phase 4 of the MCU will be. Tony Stark received one of the all time greatest death scenes a character can hope for. Steve Rogers finally does what makes Steve Rogers happy, Thor teaming up with The Guardians of the Galaxy is a fantastic pairing that should make for a wonderful movie. Doctor Strange’s lines at the end of Infinity War and to Tony before battle nor carry more gravitas than ever, and the writers set up a perfect pitch for what Captain Marvel will be doing in her sequel.

Avengers Endgame is a three hour movie that never felt like a three hour movie. it was enjoyable, well paced and had an ending that made many cry, as well as one of the greatest climactic battle scenes ever in film. It was a cultural event and it will be decades before something like this comes around again. The last time something did was probably Empire Strikes Back. It wasn’t a perfect, it has flaws that we will discuss, it was essentially a time travel reset button flick that jumped five years ahead. The time jump led to world building and significant character developments that occurred off screen, which is always bad. Professor Hulk was cool but ham fisted and we miss what we should have seen in Phase, Bruce Banner’s journey to becoming professor Hulk. Tony Stark changes from rogue, billionaire genius playboy philanthropist to family man, off screen, Captain America learns to deal with failure, Thor gives up and becomes fat., Black Widow is running the Avengers. All this occurs off screen. The reset button eliminates all consequences save Black Widow’s death. However, none of these flaws matter as Endgame is fun, entertaining and story that always remembers to focus on the central characters that we have come to love. Endgame focuses on completing the stories of Tony Stark and Steve Rogers and rightfully makes them the biggest heroes in a story about Earth’s biggest heroes. For all these reasons it is an excellent film and precisely because it does these things can overcome being a time travel reset button film that leaps forward in time five years.

Symptom 112: Captain Controversy

Captain Marvel. Its, not bad. Its not great. Scott thinks it is above average, Mark calls it average and Thomas says, meh. Considering the pre-release hype, that it was either the worst thing the MCU would ever see or the greatest thing ever, that’s interesting. In this symptom we review the movie and have discussion as to WHY there was so much controversy over a film that really doesn’t warrant controversy. Captain Marvel is a fun film. Yes, the hero is a woman. Yes, it has a female empowerment vibe. WHY DOES THAT BOTHER ANYONE? Yes, Brie Larson is unabashedly and apologetically a feminist who values diversity? Why shouldn’t she be? What do comments made about A Wrinkle In Time have to do with the MCU? Nothing, honestly. Maybe the real problem is that Larson. perhaps unintentionally, just comes across aloof and always appears to be talking down to people as if she is innately superior to the combined sum of humanity? Or maybe it is just that Brie is trying make jokes and be sarcastic/funny and she just isn’t good at it. If you look at what she says in a vacuum, there is absolutely nothing wrong with her statements or actions. However, she says things in ways that make is so easy for right wing trolls to twist her words into easily digestible chunks guaranteed to ignite the mobs of angry dudes.

Well, the timing is off. We were supposed to release the Captain Marvel Review around April 18th and this was supposed to be Avengers Endgame. We got busy. So what happened was 20 minutes of my thoughts on Endgame, this Captain Marvel review and then later, a long form Endgame review…sorry.

Supplemental: Avengers Endgame Reaction

Due to a hectic schedule it will be potentially a month before the whole crew is together to discuss Endgame. The good news is that we will have time to unpack all that we saw and have a reasoned discussion about the movie. The bad news - its a month. So, I wanted to get something recorded and released discussing Endgame. The result is a short supplemental where I cover my general feelings about the movie, the great job closing Tony Stark and Steve Roger’s arc, resolving the problems created in Infinity War and clearing the field for the new characters. I also discuss how clearing the field for the characters could backfire on Marvel and potential problems that lie ahead for Marvel in phase 4.

Symptom 111: Alita Boring Angel

Well, anything April is running behind. See, we told you were out of ideas.

Actually, it has just been a busy time for the Sci-Fi Malady crew and will continue to be so. However this week we discuss Alita Battle Angel, which is more is more difficult than one might think. There’s nothing movie breaking wrong with Alita. It is not full of J.J Abramsesque plot holes or mystery boxes, it stays mostly true to the source material and is absolutely brilliantly and painstakingly visually rendered. The score is wonderful and the acting is mostly fantastic with an exception or the two. The movie is a quantum leap forward in CGI rendering, producing a computer generated person that can realistically emote and move.

The problem is that story wise there isn’t much here. Alita regains her memory, or some of it, Ido comes to terms with his daughter’s death, Alita’s boyfriend is doing terrible things to get to Zalem, and Vector and Nova are going to kill Alita because they know she has the power to maybe kill them? Although even this doesn’t make sense because Zalem prevailed against and army of Alita’s. How is one actually a threat? We some motorball games, which really serves the same roll as the pod racing scene in a Phantom Menace - add some badly needed action to a dull film - and some pretty cool fight scenes, which again, serve as the lightsaber battles in Phantom Menace.

Alita is an origin story. The problem is origin stories come later, after you develop a character people care about in other movies. Even Phantom Menace was an origin story, telling how Vader, The Emperor and the Empire came to be. The story we should have seen is whatever Alita 2 and maybe 3 will be. After watching Alita fight an epic war to save Iron City from the clutches of Zalem and uplift an entire population of the oppressed, we might care more about a slow, boring origin story.

Again, from a technical film making point of view, Alita is a fine movie. it was just released in the wrong order.

Supplemental: Star Wars Episode 9 Trailer

Well, it is a sad day. A trailer for a new Star Wars Movie has dropped and even nerds don’t care. The consensus of the Sci-Fi Malady crew is, meh. Great, we brought Lando back for fan service and the Emperor laughing is cool. But we also get absurdity, like Rey jumping a tie fighter, and the Emperor being back.

Episode 9 will probably be good. Maybe an excellent movie. The problem is all the characters we care about are dead now and we weren’t given enough time to pass the torch to the new characters. Instead were told here’s Rey, Finn and Po and you will like because we are killing off just about everyone else. Imagine if Han was killed at start of Empire and replaced with Lando. You like Lando because you had time to come to like Lando, not because you were told “here is the new character you WILL like because the MOUSE says so, LIKE THEM STUPID FAN, LIKE THEMMMMMMMM!”

Episode looks action packed. Looks fun. The Emperor and Lando returning - awesome. How do you solve the problem of the entire rebellion fitting into the Millennium Falcon? How do you undo Rey being Rey Kenobody? Force Ghost Luke is uninteresting at best and how great of a performance as Lando can 900 year old Billy Dee Williams really be expected to give?

It is not that this teaser looks bad, its just that I don’t care anymore because well, I just don’t care about these boring, paper thin characters that have replaced the one’s I loved. Sorry.

Symptom 110: Star Trek III - Klingon Bastard You've Killed My Son

The crew couldn’t make it this week, which left me alone in the studio. So of course I decided to review a Star Trek film. I have returned to the odd numbered Trek films with Star Trek III: The Search For Spock. It is seen as the ok odd numbered film, but it is more than that. It is a deep exploration of loss, death, life and rebirth. It asks what you would lose and how far you would go for a friend. Who would you be if you lost everything that made you who you are?

Star Trek III is flawed, but most movies our. This film suffers from being sandwiched between The Wrath of Kahn and the Voyage Home. On its own merit, it is a good, not great or bad film.

Symptom 109: Battlefield Earth - It Is Scientology's Fault

Battlefield Earth. What can we really say. Travolta mailed it in and seemed to channel the worst aspects of Williams Shatner, nobody else could even remotely act their way out of a wet paper bag and there isn’t a single character the viewer cares about. Adding insult to injury this isn’t even saved by great visuals or sound design. It just sucks. This movie was rightfully called maybe the worst movie of the century. It has not a single redeeming quality. It is nonsensical, lacks a coherent plot and makes no relevant social commentary. Battlefield Earth is the worst science fiction has to offer. It does not work as a drama, an action movie, comedy or thought provoking study of the human condition and unlike Star Crash or Plan Nine From Outer Space, it isn’t so bad it is good either. It is just so bad that it is bad. It didn’t kill Travolta’s career but it probably should have.

Symptom 108: Solo, You Should Have Been Good

The theme this month is movies that bombed that should have been can’t miss success stories. Nothing, and I mean nothing fits that bill more than Solo. First, it is a Star Wars tale. Star Wars should by the virtue of being the second most successful franchise ever (well first if you don’t count the entire 1,834 movie MCU) always be a massive box office smash. Secondly though, is that that this was the back story of Han Solo. One of the most identifiable and iconic characters of a generation. Easy right? Young Han Solo meets Lando, saves Chewie, makes the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs and wins the Falcon in a game of Sabacc. Simple. A grad student could write it.

Well, either because this was really Train Heist with Young Han Solo and Roy Munson from Kingpin or that the Mouse had pissed off 80% of the fandom by either scrapping the EU, killing Luke or politicizing Star Wars and what you get is a Star Wars film that lost a dumptruck full of money and halted future movie productions beyond episode 9.


Solo: How to Kill An American Film Icon! Now Playing Near You!