Fall is a busy time. While the leaves are dropping, an entire new crop of TV shows, games, and films is popping up. With more media competing for our attention than ever before, we here at Giant Freakin’ Robot are here to help you sort the gold from the dross. We’ve poured over the coming months and highlighted the most exciting — and warned you about the crappiest — films, TV, games, and DVD releases on the horizon. It’s the Giant Freakin’ Fall Sci-Fi Preview 2012!
Resident Evil: Retribution
Sept. 14, in theaters
They have made five of these damn things. Five. I’ve only seen the first one, and the best thing I can say about it is that I don’t remember much about it. Nevertheless, director Paul W.S. Anderson has set himself up a nice little cottage industry, tossing out yet another Resident Evil sequel every couple of years or so. If you’re already planning to see Retribution, there’s probably not much I can say to change your mind, so have fun with that.
Our Recommendation: Unless you’re already a fan of the franchise, skip it.
Sept. 17, NBC 10/9c
With its high-concept SF pitch and plenty of promotion behind it, Revolution has all the ingredients to become the next LOST. Or, if they don’t use those ingredients well, it could become the next…well, the next LOST. Supernatural creator Eric Kripke is at the helm of Revolution, which is set in a post-apocalyptic world where everything electrical has mysteriously stopped working. Fifteen years later, a young girl sets out searching for her uncle, who may have some connection to the worldwide blackout. You can watch the entire pilot episode right here.
Our Recommendation: Give it at least a couple of episodes to see if it lives up to that potential.
Sept. 18, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC
The sequel to the surprise 2009 hit, Borderlands is back with even more guns, even more batshit craziness, and supposedly more focus on telling a good story in between all the carnage. For the sequel 2K Games has added even more ways to modify your weaponry, as well as new classes such as the “Gunzerker.” If the word “Gunzerker” just gave you a little shiver of glee, Borderlands 2 should be right up your (bullet-riddled) alley.
Our Recommendation: Rent it, unless you’re the sort who will sink a thousand hours into the multiplayer.
Sept. 18, Blu-Ray
Was anybody out there clamoring for a Blu-ray copy of Sylvester Stallone’s dreadful Judge Dredd? I guess reminding people of how bad this one was can only make the new version look better in comparison. So sort of the opposite of what happened with Total Recall. Seriously, though, even the trailer for this thing was painful. It’s taken me 17 years to scour my brain of the memory of Rob Schneider’s Sly Stallone impression, and now all that was for naught.
Our Recommendation: Find a copy, then cook it in your microwave to watch the sparks.
Sept. 21, in theaters
And then we have the new Dredd movie, which actually looks…kind of good? It’s got a solid cast, including Karl Urban as Dredd and Lena Headey as a ruthless drug kingpin (queenpin?) called Ma-Ma. The effects look solid and the script is by Alex Garland, the dude who penned previous genre movies such as 28 Days Later…, Never Let Me Go, and Sunshine, which is a certified SF classic for about 98% of its running time.
Our Recommendation: We’re cautiously optimistic. Watch it.
Sept. 25, Blu-ray & DVD
Joss Whedon defied all the odds stacked against a huge, multi-superhero working and gave Marvel the genuine classic they’d been building up to for years. This is a movie that even Statler & Waldorf would give an enthusiastic thumbs up. But even if we didn’t factor any of that into the equation, The Avengers is a huge success for one simple reason: it gave Joss Whedon the Hollywood clout he’s deserved for years. And we can’t wait to see what dividends that will pay.
Our Recommendation: Do you even have to ask? Buy it. Then buy a few more copies and give them to your friends.
Resident Evil: Damnation
Sept. 25, Blu-ray & DVD
If you’re the sort who is going to see Resident Evil: Retribution in theaters, you’re probably going to have this on your wish list as well. The animated feature focuses on U.S. Special Agent Leon S. Kennedy, assigned to investigate rumors that Bio-Organic weapons are being used on the battlefield in a small Eastern European country. I’m guessing zombies are involved at some point.
Our Recommendation: It’s the sort of thing you’ll like, if you like that sort of thing. Otherwise skip it.
Sept. 26, ABC 9:30/8:30c
ABC’s The Neighbors, which I can only presume was unearthed inside a time capsule from 1986, has a suburban family move into a gated community, only to discover that — uh oh! — their neighbors are all alien refugees from the planet Zabvron. I’m betting the laugh-track budget on this sucker is crippling. But hey, maybe one of the kid actors will follow in Joseph-Gordon Levitt’s Third Rock from the Sun footsteps and become one of the best actors of their generation.
Our Recommendation: Skip it. At a brisk pace, if possible.
Person of Interest
Sept. 27, CBS 9/8c
It’s got a great concept from The Dark Knight Rises writer Jonathan Nolan: an eccentric billionaire (Michael Emerson) uses a complex crime-prediction machine and a former CIA agent (Jim Caviezel) to work outside the law and try to stop crimes before they happen. The season finale ended with the machine’s designer, Finch (Emerson), being kidnapped by “his hacker nemesis, Root,” so it sounds like the show may have finally started offering up more than the “case of the week” every single episode.
Our Recommendation: We’ll probably give it a few episodes to see if it really has improved since we bailed on it last season.
Sept. 28, Fox 9/8c
This is it. The final 13 episodes of Fringe kick off tonight. We know that the Fringe team will find their way to the dystopian future first seen last season in the episode “Letters of Transit.” How will the team save a world that is under the heel of packs of dapper bald men from the future? I can’t wait to find out. Now let’s take a minute to celebrate the greatest mystery of the entire series: how the hell a science fiction show lasted five seasons on Fox.
Our Recommendation: DVR it. Watch it. Buy it when the season comes out, then watch it some more.
Sept. 28, in theaters
Bruce Willis and Joseph-Gordon Levitt playing the same character from different points on his timeline and trying to kill each other? And it’s all wrapped in a crazy, twisty storyline by writer/director Rian Johnson, the dude who made Brick? Just take all my money right now. It’s rare to see a cinematic science fiction flick that isn’t just disposable summer fluff wrapped in futuristic trappings. Looper looks to be a fast-paced, exciting ride, but it doesn’t ask you to check your brain at the door. What more could you ask for?
Our Recommendation: Watch it opening night, then go home and pre-order the DVD.
Doctor Who finale
Sept. 29, BBC America 9/8c
This is the final episode with Amy Pond and Rory, and to hear showrunner Steven Moffat tell it, their departure is not going to be a happy one. We don’t know and don’t care to speculate on the specifics, but given that the episode is titled “The Angels Take Manhattan” and we know it somehow involves the Weeping Angels…we’re predicting that Pond fans should probably keep a Sobbing Hankie nearby.
Our Recommendation: Watch it, and insist that it’s just a fleck of dust in your eye.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Sept. 29, Cartoon Network 9:30a/8:30c
I was interested to hear that they’ve introduced Darth Maul into the cartoon as a major foe, thus proving that not even a lightsaber bisection can keep a good Sith down. If you’ve found some offshoot of the Star Wars universe that still entertains you and helps metaphorically drown the memory of Jar-Jar Binks and Hayden Christensen in a shallow bathtub, then I wish you well.
Our Recommendation: Skip it. But we won’t judge you if you watch.
Dark Star: Thermostellar Edition
Oct. 2, Blu-Ray
John Carpenter and Dan O’Bannon’s cult classic sci-fi comedy sees the scout ship Dark Star traveling the void in search of “unstable planets” to blow up. After being damaged while navigating an asteroid field, one of the ship’s thermostellar bombs goes into countdown mode and refuses to disengage, forcing the crew into an elaborate philosophical debate trying to convince the self-aware explosive to disarm. It also features an alien that looks like a beach ball, and which later became the very loose basis for O’Bannon’s Alien script. No, really.
Our Recommendation: If you’ve never seen it, you’ve got to at least rent it once.
Oct. 2, Blu-Ray & DVD
Let’s face it, Nazis are one of the greatest cinematic villains ever, but they’re kind of played out at this point. How do you make the Nazis relevant again? You reveal that they’ve been hiding on the dark side of the moon for years, and now they’re about to unleash a long-planned invasion of the planet Earth. Whether Iron Sky lives up to the inherent glee of its core concept seems to be up for debate, but at least now American audiences are finally getting a Blu-ray and DVD release so we can judge for ourselves.
Our Recommendation: Rent it.
E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial — Anniversary Edition
Oct. 9, Blu-Ray & DVD
Steven Spielberg’s classic family film finally comes to Blu-ray, guaranteeing that it will look better than most of us have ever seen it. Even better, this will be the original theatrical version of the film, so the FBI won’t be threatening Elliot and E.T. with menacing walkie talkies. The set is also be packed with bonus features including new interviews, retrospective featurettes, deleted scenes, and designs and production photos. Honestly, all it’s lacking is a free pack of Reese’s Pieces.
Our Recommendation: I can’t wait until my kids are old enough to introduce them to E.T.. Buy it.
Oct. 9, Blu-Ray & DVD
I wonder whether Ridley Scott’s Prometheus will be received better on DVD than it was in theaters. (Not that it was a flop; it’s made $374 million worldwide.) Perhaps in the new perspective of a second or third watch, the film will fare better amongst fans who can judge the film solely on what it is, rather than what they wanted it to be. That won’t erase the film’s often illogical characterizations, but maybe the urge to strangle the crew of the Prometheus won’t be quite as overpowering as it was in theaters.
Our Recommendation: It ought to be worth a second visit if only to see what the bonus features have to offer. Rent it, unless you unapologetically love it already.
The Walking Dead
Oct. 14, AMC 9/8c
With the exception of another AMC show, Breaking Bad, I can’t remember another season premiere I’ve been more excited about in a long time. The show is about to delve into three elements that already have fans salivating like a zombie in a Mensa convention — the prison, the Governor, and Michonne, the last of whom got possibly the most badass introduction of any character ever. The writers have some seriously dark material to adapt, so I’m hoping they don’t shy away from the bleaker or more horrific material.
Our Recommendation: Watch it!
Oct. 16, 3D Blu-Ray
Believe it or not, James Cameron’s Avatar, the movie that almost single-handedly resurrected the long-buried 3D-movie craze, the 3D Blu-ray version of the film has so far only been available packed in with Panasonic 3D TVs and Blu-ray players. I’m sure there are people out there who are bigger fans of both Avatar and 3D movies than I am (no difficult feat, admittedly), so if that describes you, you’re not going to get a better version of the film than this.
Our Recommendation: Asking me if I want a 3D version of Avatar is like asking if I want to be stabbed while simultaneously being set on fire. Still, if you liked the flick, this is pretty much the definitive version.
Blade Runner: 30th Anniversary Collector’s Edition
Oct. 23, Blu-Ray & DVD
Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner nearly rivals George Lucas’ Star Wars films when it comes to how many times they’ve re-released the damn thing over the years. If you’re like me, you’ve probably already bought this movie at least three times. Still, if you’re going to repurchase one science fiction classic over and over, it might as well be Blade Runner. This new anniversary edition looks to be recycling a lot of previously released material, but there is a bonus disc of new stuff as well.
Our Recommendation: If you don’t already own a copy, buy it. Otherwise save your money and wait for the inevitable 40th anniversary edition.
I, Robot 3D
Oct. 23, 3D Blu-Ray
If you really enjoyed this mixture Asimov and Big Willy Style, you probably already own a copy. Is it worth throwing down another $40 or so to get a 3D version of a movie that wasn’t originally shot in 3D? Signs point to no. Then again, Alan Tudyk did play Sonny the robot in this, so if he gets a couple of cents from your purchase that might actually be worth it. I didn’t actually hate this flick as much as some did, but neither do I feel any need to rewatch it.
Our Recommendation: Skip it.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Oct. 23, Blu-Ray & DVD
You don’t see romantic comedy mixed with extinction-level asteroid impacts, so I’d like to give Seeking a Friend the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately, it didn’t exactly earn rave reviews. Still, I think curiosity will be enough to talk me into checking it out, if only to see if they have the balls to actually destroy the planet at the end. (I’m guessing not.) We’ve already seen the serious and/or horrific versions of this kind of story a thousand times, so it’ll be interesting to see a lighter-hearted version. If nothing else, damn that Steve Carell is charming.
Our Recommendation: Rent it, unless you have zero tolerance for rom-coms.
Oct. 26, in theaters
Depending on which reviews you believe, Cloud Atlas is either an ambitious mess or an spellbinding, stunning classic. The Matrix sequels may have squandered a lot of the goodwill the first one earned the Wachowskis, but I’m still eager to see their next foray into science fiction. They’re tackling an incredibly complex novel, so at the very least no one will be able to accuse them of playing it safe. And if Cloud Atlas works, it’ll get us even more excited for the Wachowskis’ Jupiter Ascending in 2014.
Our Recommendation: If you consider yourself any kind of science fiction fan, you pretty much have to see this one.
Assassin’s Creed III
Oct. 30, Xbox 360, Playstation 3 & PC
Ubisoft’s time-hopping series has been mixing real history, Byzantine conspiracies, and batshit-wonky sci-fi pre-history since 2007. The third “numbered” installment will finally conclude the story of bartender turned modern-day assassin Desmond Miles, as well as the centuries-long war between the Assassins and Templars, all wrapped up in an apocalyptic 2012 doomsday plotline. The new game will also serve up more of the series’ bread and butter: meeting historical figures and stabbing them in the face, this time during the American Revolution.
Our Recommendation: Buy it.
Nov. 6, Xbox 360
Bungie may be moving on, but Microsoft’s defining space opera lives on in the hands of new developer 343 Industries. After a few forays into other corners of the Halo universe with Halo: ODST and Halo: Reach, the new installment will return the focus to Master Chief and kick off a new three-game arc called the “Reclaimer Trilogy.” Halo 4 picks up four years after the end of Halo 3, with Master Chief and Cortana landing on a mysterious Forerunner world and proceeding to shoot lots of things.
Our Recommendation: I’ve actually never gotten into the Halo games, but for fans of the series this is a must-buy.
They Live: (Collector’s Edition)
Nov. 6, Blu-Ray & DVD
Another cult classic that will have many fans frothing at the mouth, John Carpenter’s hilarious sci-fi dark comedy is finally coming to Blu-ray. They Live tells the story of a drifter known only as “Nada” who discovers that our society has been infiltrated by alien invaders, and that we are all being manipulated through subliminal TV messages. And how does he make this discovery? Magic sunglasses. Man, I love the ’80s. They Live also contains the single manliest fight sequence ever put to film.
Our Recommendation: We want you to chew bubblegum and buy this Blu-ray. And we’re all out of bubblegum.
Firefly: 10th Anniversary Special
Nov. 11, Science 10/9c
For any Firefly fans out there who weren’t lucky enough to be sitting through the show’s 10-year reunion panel at Comic-Con, you’ll finally get to see what you missed, courtesy of the Science Channel. The reunion was one of the highlights of Con this year, so let’s send some appreciative flower baskets to whoever thought to record it for later use. The panel included Joss Whedon, Nathan Fillion, Adam Baldwin, Alan Tudyk, Summer Glau, and writers Tim Minear and Jose Molina. The special will also include a behind-the-scenes roundtable interview.
Our Recommendation: Why are you still here? You should be setting your DVR!
Mass Effect: Paragon Lost
Nov. 13, Blu-Ray & DVD
BioWare’s Mass Effect franchise ran into a hornet’s nest of controversy earlier this year regarding the way they ended Mass Effect 3. In spite of all the screaming, BioWare clearly isn’t done with the ME franchise, and hence we get Paragon Lost, an animated flick set before the events of ME3. Focusing on Alliance Marine James Vega (voiced by Freddy Prinze, Jr.), Paragon Lost finds Vega and a special forces squad forced into battle against the Collectors on a remote human colony world.
Our Recommendation: So far the Mass Effect tie-ins have been hit or miss. Rent it.
Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning
Nov. 30, limited release in theaters
So here’s a thing I didn’t know: they kept making these movies. This will be like the sixth of them. They must be tapping into the same inexplicable mojo as the Resident Evil movies. I’d swear these franchises just keep resurrecting themselves in the Lazarus Pit. Hooray for the direct-to-DVD market, I guess?
Our Recommendation: Did you know there was more than one Universal Soldier movie? If so, you’ll probably want to watch this one.