(Netflix Instant Watch, Just Added)
Sure, I could be writing about The Amazing Spider-Man, which opens tonight at midnight and is at least tangentially science fiction. But while the Spidey reboot might be the subject of much chatter, it’s not the bit of science fiction I’m most excited about this week. That honor goes to 12 Monkeys, which was just added back to Netflix’s Instant Watch catalogue. Based on a 1962 French short film, 12 Monkeys tells the story of James Cole (Bruce Willis), a convict from a post-apocalyptic future sent back in time to collect information on the virus that has decimated the planet. As Cole is flung about in time chasing dead-end leads and eventually questioning his own sanity, he learns that changing the course of history is no easy thing. Director Terry Gilliam conjures up a surreal future that very easily could be the work of an unhinged mind, and it’s tragic how eager Cole is to embrace that seeming lesser of evils. 12 Monkeys is my favorite type of time-travel story, one that unfolds as an intricate puzzle that finally clicks together perfectly in the end, leaving you wondering why the solution eluded you all that time.
Deep Impact (Amazon Prime, Just Added)
Hollywood is currently obsessed with fairy tales (Mirror Mirror, Once Upon a Time, Grimm, Snow White and the Huntsman…), so why not revisit a simpler time, when Hollywood was obsessed with killer asteroids. And aside from being overshadowed by the flag-draped excess of Michael Bay’s Armageddon, Deep Impact is by far the better movie. Granted, that’s like beating a legless man at a foot race, but still: not a bad watch.
Eureka (Syfy, 9/8c) – “Mirror, Mirror”
No, not the horrible fairy tale movie with Julia Roberts. “Eureka is cut off from the world by a malfunctioning experiment that threatens to eradicate the town’s populace.” Why do I feel like the writers are just playing Eureka mad libs?
The Fifth Element (Netflix Instant Watch, Just Added)
After finishing up 12 Monkeys, why not make it a Bruce Willis SF double feature? Fifth Element would actually make a strangely appropriate follow-up. Both films feature strange, surreal visions of the future, so after the mournful futility of Monkeys, why not cheer yourself up with the candy-colored batshit insanity of Fifth Element? Moolti-pass?
Not of This Earth (Netflix Instant Watch, Just Added)
It’s not enough that Not of This Earth is a remake of a cheesy SF/horror flick produced and directed by Roger Corman. It’s not enough that it features porn actress Traci Lords in her first mainstream role. No, the real kicker is that the movie was allegedly made as the result of a bet. How can you not want to watch?
The Amazing Spider-Man (In Theaters)
In spite of my slighting Spidey in favor of a time-traveling Bruce Willis up above, I’m actually a lot more interested than I expected to be. I still think the concept of rebooting a movie that’s barely a decade old is silly, but hopefully this one will finally scrape the taste of Spider-Man 3 out of my mouth.
I’d always heard bad things about Barbarella, but when a Blu-ray copy of the flick showed up on my front porch I figured, what the hell, I’ll give it a shot. That was a bad decision. This movie actually made me bored of the mostly naked female form. I’m even more confused about this news than I was before…
“Heaven’s War” by David S. Goyer & Michael Cassutt
This book has already won me over simply for including an asteroid named “Keanu.” From Amazon:
When it first appeared, the astronomers named the asteroid Keanu.
A Near Earth Object, from a distant constellation, it was headed directly toward our sun.
But when we went to meet it, it turned out to be far more than a huge rock hurtling through space…
The two teams of astronauts sent to explore Keanu discovered it is, in fact, a spacecraft, a giant ship with an alien crew. A ship that had headed to Earth with a mission and a message: Help Us. A brave new frontier beckons. But we are about to learn that it comes with a price…
Without warning, the aliens transport small groups of humans from the competing scientific communities of Houston, Texas and Bangalore, India to the vast interior habitats of Keanu. Their first challenge is to survive. Their second; to discover why The Architects — the unknown, unseen aliens controlling the asteroid — brought them there. And soon a third emerges: they must find a way to take control of Keanu.
Because the NEO is moving again — away from Earth. The Architects are headed home…
“The Immorality Engine” by George Mann
Mann has not only been crafting his own steampunk reality, he’s been working in two separate eras of that reality with two different series. The “Newbury & Hobbes” books are set in a steampunk Victorian England, while his “Ghost” series is set in the Roaring Twenties of that same universe. The Immorality Engine follows on the heels of The Affinity Bridge and The Osiris Ritual. Here’s the description from Amazon:
On the surface, life is going well for Victorian special agent Sir Maurice Newbury, who has brilliantly solved several nigh-impossible cases for Queen Victoria with his indomitable assistant, Miss Veronica Hobbes, by his side. But these facts haven’t stopped Newbury from succumbing increasingly frequently to his dire flirtation with the lure of opium. His addiction is fueled in part by his ill-gotten knowledge of Veronica’s secret relationship with the queen, which Newbury fears must be some kind of betrayal. Veronica, consumed by worry and care for her prophetic but physically fragile sister Amelia, has no idea that she is a catalyst for Newbury’s steadily worsening condition.
Veronica and Newbury’s dear friend Bainbridge, the Chief Investigator at Scotland Yard, tries to cover for him as much as possible, but when the body of a well known criminal turns up, Bainbridge and Veronica track Newbury down in an opium den and drag him out to help them with the case. The body is clearly, irrefutably, that of the man in question, but shortly after his body is brought to the morgue, a crime is discovered that bears all the dead man’s hallmarks. Bainbridge and Veronica fear someone is committing copycat crimes, but Newbury is not sure. Somehow, the details are too perfect for it to be the work of a copycat. But how can a dead man commit a crime?
“Iron Gray Sea (Destroyerman Series #7)” by Taylor Anderson
Boy, those alternate history writers love them some WWII, don’t they? From Amazon:
Now, Lieutenant Commander Matthew Reddy, the crew of USS Walker and their allies battle an ever-growing host of enemies across the globe in a desperate battle for freedom …
War has engulfed the — other earth. With every hard-won victory and painful defeat, Matt Reddy and the Allies encounter more friends — and even more diabolical enemies. Even, at last, in the arms of the woman he loves, there is little peace for Reddy. The vast sea, and the scope of the conflict, have trapped him too far away to help on either front, but that doesn’t mean he and Walker can rest.
Cutting short his “honeymoon,” Reddy sails off in pursuit of Hidoiame, a rogue Japanese destroyer that is wreaking havoc in Allied seas. Now that Walker is armed with the latest “new” technology, he hopes his battle-tested four-stacker has an even chance in a straight-up fight against the bigger ship — and he means to take her on.
Elsewhere, the long-awaited invasion of Grik “Indiaa” has begun, and the Human-Lemurian Alliance is pushing back against the twisted might of the Dominion. The diplomatic waters seethe with treachery and a final, terrible plot explodes in the Empire of New Britain Isles. Worse, the savage Grik have also mastered “new” technologies and strategies. Their fleet of monstrous ironclads — and an army two years in the making — are finally massing to strike…
“Orion and King Arthur” by Ben Bova
Orion has fought across time and space at the whims of his Creators, godlike beings from the future who toy with human history like spoiled children playing with dolls. Orion has been both assassin and hero, all the while striving to be reunited with Anya, the ageless goddess who is his one true love.
Now Orion finds himself in Britain in the years after the Romans abandoned the island kingdom. Minor kings and warlords feud among themselves even as invading hordes threaten to sweep over the land. There Orion befriends a young warrior named Arthur, who dreams of uniting his quarreling countrymen and driving the invaders from their lands. Along with a few brave comrades, Arthur hopes to the stem the tide of barbarism and create a new era of peace and prosperity.
But Orion’s Creator, Aten, has other plans for the timeline. Arthur’s noble ambitions interfere with Aten’s far-reaching schemes to reshape history to his own ends. He wants Arthur dead and forgotten — but Orion does not.
Orion will battle the gods themselves to see that Arthur fulfills his destiny. But can even he save Arthur from the tragedy that awaits him?
Orion and King Arthur is a thrilling new chapter in Ben Bova’s unforgettable cosmic saga.
Treasure Planet: 10th Anniversary Edition (Blu-Ray)
Remember Treasure Planet? Yeah, I’d completely forgotten about it too. Still, it’s apparently been 10 years, so Disney is legally required to put out a new edition. On the surface, the concept of setting Treasure Island in outer space is kind of awesome and…holy crap, Joseph Gordon-Levitt did a voice in this?
“The Unincorporated Woman” by Dani Kollin, Eytan Kollin
The sequel, naturally enough, to The Unincorporated Man, which envisioned a future where the world has fallen into economic collapse, and where every person is “incorporated” at birth and must then attempt to gain a majority of their own shares in order to control their life. Here’s what’s up in the sequel according to Amazon:
There’s a civil war in space and the unincorporated woman is enlisted! The epic continues.
The award-winning saga of a revolutionary future takes a new turn. Justin Cord, the unincorporated man, is dead, betrayed, and his legacy of rebellion and individual freedom is in danger. General Black is the great hope of the military, but she cannot wage war from behind the President’s desk. So there must be a new president, anointed by Black, to hold the desk job, and who better than the only woman resurrected from Justin Cord’s past era, the scientist who created his resurrection device, the only born unincorporated woman. The perfect figurehead. Except that she has ideas of her own, and secrets of her own, and the talent to run the government her way. She is a force that no one anticipated, and no one can control.
The first novel in this thought-provoking series, The Unincorporated Man, won the 2009 Prometheus Award for best novel.
Futurama (Comedy Central, 10/9c) — “The Thief of Baghead”
Bender has tried his hand at nearly every underhanded profession you can think of, but tonight he finds a new one by becoming a paparazzo. His mission: to photograph a famous actor who has somehow never had his face seen by anyone. No, I’m not quite sure how that works either.
TRON: Uprising (Disney XD, 9/8c) – “Isolated”
This episode doesn’t have a description posted yet, so I’m just going to blindly speculate that David Warner shows up and de-rezzes the hell out of everybody.
Falling Skies (TNT, 9/8c) — “Love and Other Acts of Courage”
“A familiar person returns to the unit, but his motives are scrutinized. Elsewhere, a captured skitter is imprisoned at the camp, and Hal connects with Maggie as she casts light on her past.” So who is this “familiar” person and why are his motives suspicious? Your army already consists of a guy who was abducted and then returned by the aliens, a kid with a direct line to the skitters welded onto his spine, and a roguish asshole who would absolutely betray/murder the lot of you if he thought the results would favor him. Now you’re becoming discriminating?