/Answers: Our Favorite Hard Science Fiction Movies

annihilation early buzz

Every week in /Answers, we answer a new pop culture-related question. In this edition, we celebrate the release of Annihilation by asking “What is your favorite hard science fiction movie?” For our purposes here, we’re defining “hard science fiction” as sci-fi that bases its concepts in actual science or builds it’s narrative around far-reaching concepts and ideas. Read More »

Disney's Ventana Short - Morning Watch

(The Morning Watch is a recurring feature that highlights a handful of noteworthy videos from around the web. They could be video essays, fanmade productions, featurettes, short films, hilarious sketches, or just anything that has to do with our favorite movies and TV shows.)

In this edition, watch an animated short film called Ventana, created by the interns who worked at Walt Disney Animation Studios this past summer. Plus, check out a video essay examining the different kinds of time travel in movies, TV and books over the years, and check out a metal cover of the Tales of the Crypt theme song. Read More »

Groundhog day rip offs

This weekend, Happy Death Day will give audiences that old familiar feeling that they’ve seen something like this before. Because they have: it’s a slasher movie take on Groundhog Day. But Groundhog Day isn’t the only film to use the time loop scenario.
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‘Upstream Color’ Video Reaction [Sundance 2013]

Today at Sundance saw the premiere of Upstream Color, the second film from Primer director Shane Carruth. Trailers for the movie position the film as an enigma, and while the film is hardly mainstream, I would argue that the feature isn’t nearly as impenetrable as those first looks suggested. That said, this film is quite a puzzle, and a very rewarding one.

It has been nine years since Primer made its festival debut, and in that time Carruth has polished his skills as a filmmaker. Upstream Color begins with a base in science fiction, but the sci-fi element is really just a launching pad for a story about two people trying to rebuild their identities after suffering severe trauma. It is an adventurous film, often playing with little dialogue, instead letting strong audio and visual components tell the story.

After the screening Germain and I recorded a video blog to get our first impressions on record. This isn’t a full-fledged review by any means; there’s a lot to think about, and a process to working out how to properly give the film its due without spoiling the mysteries within. That said, I’ve been thinking about Upstream Color constantly since the screening ended, and I don’t think my very positive view of the film is likely to change.

Check out the video below. We dance around the plot quite a bit in the video, and there isn’t anything given away here. Read More »

This week’s column comes from the future. As such, I already know what comments you are going to make. (Three of you will be scandalized that Time After Time wasn’t included and four of you will agree with one joker who feels that anyone who hasn’t seen Primer yet has no business reading this site.)

Nevertheless, I’ve come back to my original spot along the timeline. Not so much because I want to maintain an semblance of “the correct outcome of events,” but because I can’t seem to find my keys.

With that, charge up your flux capacitors (or soak in your hot tub) it’s time to look at time travel. Read More »

Shane Carruth‘s time-travel film Primer is one of the smartest sci-fi movies of the past decade. It is also a particularly compelling one because it tells a time-travel story with a very unadorned indie aesthetic. The look of the film may be born out of budget and necessity, but it makes Primer stand out, and makes the very detailed explanation of the film’s mechanics feel more grounded, and consequently more effective. The film is Carruth’s only movie, and we’ve been eagerly awaiting a follow-up. (So much so that word of his participation on Rian Johnson’s new film Looper was enough to cause ripples of excitement.)

Primer is meaty enough to withstand a great deal of conversation and scrutiny. As we wait for another film from the director, there is still plenty of territory to explore in his first. If you’ve already memorized the DVD commentary track, check out the infographic below, which seeks to sort out all of the film’s many timelines. It could make the events of the movie more clear, but perhaps not at first glance. Read More »

If you’re a fan of Shane Carruth‘s one and only and wonderful movie Primer, this photo should put a spring in your step. If you’ve never seen Primer, I suggest checking it out, then looping back here to this post to begin again.

So this is Shane Carruth, aka the writer, director and star of Primer, on the set of Rian Johnson‘s new film Looper. It’s one of the very few images of the director we’ve seen in some time. In September 2009, Rian Johnson said, “Shane is alive and well and has a mind-blowing sci-fi script. Let’s all pray to the movie-gods that he gets it made soon.” That script is A Topiary, for which a teaser website went up last year, but funding is reportedly thin.

Now Shane Carruth is working on Looper, and Badass Digest got confirmation that he’s doing “some effects for the time travel sequences.” Given that Primer is one of the best time travel films ever made, with some great home-made effects, and Looper is a promising time-travel movie from the talented Rian Johnson, it seems that things are coming together nicely. Now let’s get A Topiary funded. Please. [LooperMovie]

A Topiary

Shane Carruth‘s Primer is one of the movies that completely blew my mind. It was my first time at the Sundance Film Festival, and I was working as a volunteer. I had heard about this film which was made for next to nothing ($7,000) which had something to do with time travel (one of my favorite story devices). I’ll admit, I wasn’t even sure I liked the film the first time I saw it, but I knew I had seen something special. Like many others, it took a couple more viewings of the film before I could even understand the timelines completely. I dragged my friends into Boston when it came around with the Boston Film Festival, and eventually bought it on DVD (where I would loan it out systematically to friends). Basically, if you haven’t seen the movie, seek it out.

Carruth not only wrote and directed Primer, but edited, produced, composed the score as well as handled both the production and sound design of the film. So what has Carruth been up to since the 2004 Sundance Film Festival? Good question. IMDb lists no credits, and all I had heard about the man was an update from Brick director Rian Johnson, who sent out a tweet claiming that that “Shane is alive and well and has a mind-blowing sci-fi script. Let’s all pray to the movie-gods that he gets it made soon.” io9 discovered a webpage for Carruth’s next project bearing a cryptic message. If you go to ATopiary.com, it reads “Over and over you have been promised ADVENTURE but have not found it.” Weird, huh? Now we have even more information about the film’s plot.
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Cool Stuff: XKCD’s Movie Narrative Charts


XKCD has produced a series of highly detailed charts showing the character interactions in the narratives of some of the most popular films of all time, including the Lord of the Rings, Star Wars (original trilogy), Jurassic Park, 12 Angry Men, and the insanely complicated to follow indie sci-fi film Primer. Click on through to see the chart in high resolution.

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