Robot & Frank Highlights Our Appalling Shortage Of Robot Heist Movies This Week In Science Fiction
Robot & Frank
(In theaters, limited release)
Aside from the continued run of the ironically forgettable Total Recall remake, there’s not much happening in theaters this week when it comes to science fiction. All the more reason, then, to seek out this limited-release flick starring Frank “Once Played Skeletor” Langella. Set in the not-too-distant future (is that a crowded era or what?), Robot & Frank is the story of Frank, a retired jewel thief whose son gives him a robot butler as a present. Frank, however, decides to use the robot for less strictly legal purposes: namely staging one last big heist. There’s just one problem: the robot’s memories are legally admissible in court. Can we get a memory-wipe, stat?
We’ll be posting our review for the flick later this week, but if you feel like blindly taking a shot with an indie movie featuring a robot, why not make it Robot & Frank? (Assuming it’s playing in your area, that is.) In all seriousness, though, the trailer is kind of great. Check it out and you’ll see why Robot & Frank is our GFR science fiction pick of the week.
Alphas (Syfy, 8/7c) – “Gaslight”
This show has been firing on all cylinders the past several weeks, so I’m excited to see what the rest of the season holds in a way I wasn’t before. Last week’s episode also took the show into some very dark territory, so I’m definitely liking what new showrunner Bruce Miller is selling. This week Rachel is kidnapped while visiting the hospital, and the team must track her down.
Warehouse 13 (Syfy, 9/8c) – “No Pain, No Gain”
The team investigates a hockey player who seems to have amazing recuperative abilities. No word yet if he has adamantium bones and a ridiculous haircut.
Children of the Hunt (DVD)
It’s that time again, kids! A high-profile, mega-successful movie has come to DVD (The Hunger Games), so now a little-known studio has served up a vaguely related direct-to-DVD rip-off featuring a suspiciously similar color scheme on the packaging. What does Children of the Hunt have to offer? Humans hunting humans, a chick with a bow, and the sinking feeling that you’ve misspent your 10 bucks, most likely.
Color Out of Space (DVD)
Following in the footsteps of the low-budget but well-praised H.P. Lovecraft adaptation The Call of Cthulhu, The Color Out of Space once again serves up an on-the-cheap realization of one of Lovecraft’s disturbing tales. “The Colour Out of Space” was actually the first Lovecraft story I ever read, and Lovecraft is notoriously hard to get right, so I’m intrigued to see how well this version works.
“The Eternal Flame: Orthogonal Vol. 2” by Greg Egan
Following up his The Clockwork Rocket (which just got a re-release a few weeks ago), The Eternal Flame is set in a universe where “light has no universal speed and its creation generates energy.” By some accounts, Egan is more enamored with physics-tinkering than he is with actual storyline, so probably only sample if you don’t mind your SF hardcore.
Face Off (Syfy, 9/8c) – “A Force to be Reckoned With”
Syfy’ make-up reality competition challenges the contestants to create their own Star Wars alien. Sean Astin hosts, suggesting that his agent is confused about which well-known film trilogy he was actually in.
“Fate of Worlds: Return from the Ringworld” by Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner
Niven and Lerner collaborate on a return to one of Niven’s best-known constructs, the massive artifact known as Ringworld. But now Ringworld has found a way to become even more mysterious…by vanishing entirely.
For decades, the spacefaring species of Known Space have battled over the largest artifact — and grandest prize — in the galaxy: the all-but-limitless resources and technology of the Ringworld. But without warning, the Ringworld has vanished, leaving behind three rival war fleets.
Something must justify the blood and treasure that have been spent. If the fallen civilization of the Ringworld can no longer be despoiled of its secrets, the Puppeteers will be forced to surrender theirs. Everyone knows that the Puppeteers are cowards.
But the crises converging upon the trillion Puppeteers of the Fleet of Worlds go far beyond even the onrushing armadas:
Adventurer Louis Wu and the exiled Puppeteer known only as Hindmost, marooned together for more than a decade, escaped from the Ringworld before it disappeared. And throughout those years, as he studied Ringworld technology, Hindmost has plotted to reclaim his power…
Ol’t'ro, the Gw’oth ensemble mind — and the Fleet of Worlds’ unsuspected puppet master for a century — is deviously brilliant. And increasingly unbalanced…
Proteus, the artificial intelligence on which, in desperation, the Puppeteers rely to manage their defenses, is outgrowing its programming — and the supposed constraints on its initiative…
Sigmund Ausfaller, paranoid and disgraced hero of the lost human colony of New Terra, knows that something threatens his adopted home world — and that it must be stopped…
Achilles, the megalomaniac Puppeteer — twice banished, and twice rehabilitated — sees the Fleet of Worlds’ existential crisis as a new opportunity to reclaim supreme power. Whatever the risks…
One way or another, the fabled race of Puppeteers may have come to the end of their days.
Hell (Blu-Ray & DVD)
Hell imagines a future where our sun has turned the world into a parched wasteland. Like a reverse Waterworld, a group of people set out into the wastes in search of water. Unfortunately, there’s more to fear in the wastes than sunburn.
“The Immortality Factor” by Ben Bova
Bova sets his sights on the very real and very controversial world of stem-cell research. Here’s the synopsis via Amazon:
Provocative, gripping, startling: bestselling author Ben Bova delivers a knockout read with his trademark blend of cutting edge science and unrelenting suspense….
Some see stem-cell research as mankind’s greatest scientific breakthrough. Others see a blasphemous attempt to play God. Suddenly, the possibility of immortality exists. Two brothers, both doctors, stand on opposite sides of the controversy. To Dr. Arthur Marshak, his work is a momentous gift to humanity. To Dr. Jessie Marshak, it is a curse. Between them stands a beautiful, remarkable woman both brothers will do anything to save.
Somehow, before it’s too late, Arthur and Jessie Marshak must bridge the gap that divides them…on an issue that could mean nothing less than life or death for millions.
“In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination” by Margaret Atwood
The author of The Handmaid’s Tale explores the appeal of science fiction, both as a writer and reader of it. Originally printed in 2011, the book is getting a paperback edition this week. Via Amazon:
At a time when the borders between literary genres are increasingly porous, Margaret Atwood maps the richly fertile crosscurrents of speculative and science fiction, slipstream, utopias and dystopias, and fantasy, and muses on their roots in the age-old human impulse to imagine new worlds. She shares the evolution of her personal fascination with this branch of literature, from her days as a child inventing a race of flying superhero rabbits, to her graduate study of the Victorian ancestors of SF to her appreciations of such influential writers as Marge Piercy, Rider Haggard, Ursula K. LeGuin, Kazuo Ishiguro, Aldous Huxley, and Jonathan Swift. As humorous and charming as it is insightful and provocative, In Other Worlds brilliantly illuminates “the wilder storms on the wilder seas of invention.”
“In War Times” by Kathleen Ann Goonan
Kathleen Ann Goonan burst into prominence with Queen City Jazz, the start of her Nanotech Quartet. The Bones of Time, her widely acclaimed second novel, was a finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 2000. In War Times is deeply satisfying SF. Sam, the protagonist, is a young enlisted man in 1941 when his older brother Keenan is killed at Pearl Harbor. Seduced by a mysterious woman, Sam gives her plans for a device that will end not just the war, but perhaps even the human predilection for war.
Sam spends his war years trying to construct the device and discovers only later that it worked. Sam falls in love with a spy, and they both become involved in preventing the JFK assassination in the 1960s. Over the decades it becomes deeply meaningful that his world is strangely transformed by the enigmatic device.
“Seed” by Rob Ziegler
It’s the dawn of the 22nd century, and the world has fallen apart. Decades of war and resource depletion have toppled governments. The ecosystem has collapsed. A new dust bowl sweeps the American West. The United States has become a nation of migrants -starving masses of nomads who seek out a living in desert wastelands and encampments outside government seed-distribution warehouses. In this new world, there is a new power. Satori is more than just a corporation, she is an intelligent, living city that grew out of the ruins of Denver. Satori bioengineers both the climate-resistant seed that feeds a hungry nation, and her own post-human genetic Designers, Advocates, and Laborers. What remains of the United States government now exists solely to distribute Satori seed; a defeated American military doles out bar-coded, single-use Satori seed to the nation’s starving citizens. When one of Satori’s Designers goes rogue, Agent Sienna Doss-Ex — Army Ranger turned glorified bodyguard — is tasked by the government to bring her in: The government wants to use the Designer to break Satori’s stranglehold on seed production and reassert themselves as the center of power. Sianna Doss’s search for the Designer intersects with Brood and his younger brother Pollo — orphans scrapping by on the fringes of the wastelands. Pollo is abducted, because he is believed to suffer from Tet, a newly emergent disease, the victims of which are harvested by Satori. As events spin out of control, Brood and Sienna Doss find themselves at the heart of Satori, where an explosive climax promises to reshape the future of the world.
“The Unincorporated Future” by Dani Kollin & Eytan Kollin
Kollin & Kollin return to wrap up their four-part space opera that began in The Unincorporated Man and continued on through The Unincorporated War and The Unincorporated Woman. Here’s the official synopsis:
Sandra O’Toole is the president of the Outer Alliance, which stretches from the asteroid belt to the Oort Cloud beyond Pluto. Resurrected following the death of Justin Cord, the unincorporated man, O’Toole has become a powerful political figure and a Machiavellian leader determined to win the Civil War against the inner planets at almost any cost. And the war has been going badly, in part because of the great General Trang, a fit opponent for the brilliant J. D. Black. Choices have to be made to abandon some of the moral principles upon which the revolution was founded. It is a time of great heroism and great betrayal, madness, sacrifice, and shocking military conflict. Nothing is predictable, even the behavior of artificial intelligences. There may be only one way out, but it is not surrender.
“Vacation” by Matthew Costello
Another apocalyptic look at the future. Does nobody write hopeful science fiction anymore?
Jack Murphy and his family need a vacation. This one might just kill them…
In the near future after a global crisis causes crops to fail and species to disappear . . . something even more deadly happens. Groups of humans around the world suddenly become predators, feeding off their own kind. These “Can Heads” grow to such a threat that fences, gated compounds, and SWAT–style police protection become absolutely necessary in order to live.
After one Can Head attack leaves NYPD cop Jack Murphy wounded, Jack takes his wife and kids on a much-needed vacation. Far up north, to a camp where families can still swim and take boats out on a lake, and pretend that the world isn’t going to hell.
But the Can Heads are never far away, and nothing is quite what it seems in Paterville…
Would you like to play a game? A pre-Ferris Bueller Matthew Broderick nearly destroys the world, as we always suspected he would.
Futurama (Comedy Central, 10/9c) – “Viva Mars Vegas”
The Planetary Express crew is up against the Robot Mafia, trying to recover cargo that the droid goodfellas have absconded with.
Planetoid #3 (Image Comics)
Space pirate Silas continues to explore the strange alien junkyard he’s crashed onto. This go-round finds Silas attempting to rally the local tribes into something resembling a settlement. But with killer robots.
Star Trek #12 (IDW Publishing)
The ongoing series which takes place in the continuity established by J.J. Abrams’ film finds nuKirk and company facing a threat most perilous: tribbles.
Misfits (Logo, 10/9c) – “Episode Six”
The British super-hero show reaches its first season premiere. But fear not! If you’ve become hooked, there are still three more seasons. If you can’t bear to wait for Logo to air them, the first three seasons are currently available on Hulu.
Dark Matters: Twisted But True (Science, 10/9c) – “Tuskegee STD, Do You See What I See?, Cold War Cold Case”
The show takes a look at illegal experiments by the U.S. government and investigates the mysterious deaths of nine skiers.
Doctor Who: The Destinations of Doctor Who (BBC America, 9/8c)
BBC America simply can’t get enough of documentaries about Doctor Who. Good news if you’re interested in documentaries about Doctor Who; bad news if you’re rather they just start airing the damn seventh season alrighty.
Roger Corman’s Attack of the 50 Foot Cheerleader in 3D (Epix, 10/9c)
What’s this? A cheesy Saturday-night science fiction film that isn’t airing on Syfy? Yep, cable network Epix tries to make a name for itself by airing a slice of grade-A American cheese courtesy of the schlockmeister himself, Roger Corman. The 50-hyphen-foot cheerleader in question is a college coed who suffers an unfortunate transformation after sampling an experimental drug. I hope she’s got a pair of 50-foot-equvalent panties on, because otherwise TMZ is gonna be all over that.