Tag Archives: Robert A. Heinlein

Predestination (2014, Peter Spierig and Michael Spierig)

With Predestination, the Spierig Brothers take the narrative gimmick to the nth degree. It’s not just a real part of the story, it’s the story. Unlike most films where there’s some satisfaction for the viewer in discovering the gimmick, the Spierigs figure out a way to just push the viewer further down the rabbit hole. The film’s a delicately constructed guided tour of a maze (though the guide isn’t clear) and the film raises a lot of questions it doesn’t want to be responsible for answering. The gimmick gives the Spierigs a way out–because if it’s about the gimmick, there’s no responsibility.

But so much of Predestination is so good–and expertly constructed–it’s hard to imagine how they could do the story with responsibility. They don’t promise it and the gimmick unravels entertainingly throughout. So it’s a success. It’s a moderately budgeted time travel picture and all the settings are great. Between the careful composition and Ben Nott’s delicate photography, the film always looks good.

And the acting is excellent. Ethan Hawke has to perform with the gimmick in mind, which means having an utterly sympathetic, but somewhat obtuse demeanor. It’s impossible to identify with him, more impossible the more his character develops, but the the film still requires the viewer do so. As his protege, Sarah Snook has a rather difficult role (which just gets more difficult) and she does well.

It’s a very strange film (and not). It should be better, it shouldn’t be so good.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Peter Spierig and Michael Spierig; screenplay by Peter Spierig and Michael Spierig, based on a story by Robert A. Heinlein; director of photography, Ben Nott; edited by Matt Villa; music by Peter Spierig; production designer, Matthew Putland; produced by Paddy McDonald, Tim McGahan and Michael Spierig; released by Pinnacle Films.

Starring Ethan Hawke (The Bartender), Sarah Snook (The Unmarried Mother) and Noah Taylor (Mr. Robertson).


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Starship Troopers 3: Marauder (2008, Edward Neumeier)

I love this movie. Seriously. Not just because it features the most idiotically jingoistic song since Grease 2‘s “Do It For Our Country.” There’s a fair amount of political commentary (instead of going for the easy Bush jugular, Neumeier’s a lot more complicated, particularly when it comes to how religion is sellable as war propaganda) and a lot of good acting.

However, I hate Neumeier a little for wasting the finest performance Casper Van Dien is, likely, ever going to give. The movie follows Jolene Blalock (who’s awful at the start, but then turns good when the film enters its second act–Marauder‘s so shockingly well-plotted, I can’t believe they didn’t give it a limited theatrical… it’s an actual sequel to Starship Troopers, not a direct-to-video continuation) at the expense of Van Dien and it’s not right. Sure, Blalock’s got a romance with Boris Kodjoe (also way too good considering) and a personal discovery storyline, but Van Dien’s actually really good. It’s a tragedy his… yes, I’m going to say it… ability is wasted.

Unfortunately, besides those three–and Stephen Hogan, who’s fantastic–the supporting cast is pretty weak. At times, with the reasonable CG and the competent if unspectacular direction and good script, it feels like Marauder is a “real” movie… until the supporting cast speaks. Marnette Patterson and Cécile Breccia are both, sadly, laughable. I just wish they’d been able to get solider actors.

But again, I love this movie. It’s an unbelievable success.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Edward Neumeier; screenplay by Neumeier, based on a novel by Robert A. Heinlein; director of photography, Lorenzo Senatore; edited by Michael John Bateman; music by Klaus Badelt; production designer, Sylvain Gingras; produced by David Lancaster; released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Starring Casper Van Dien (Colonel Johnny Rico), Jolene Blalock (Captain Lola Beck), Stephen Hogan (Sky Marshal Omar Anoke), Boris Kodjoe (Gen. Dix Hauser), Amanda Donohoe (Admiral Enolo Phid), Marnette Patterson (Holly Little), Danny Keogh (Dr. Wiggs), Stelio Savante (Chief Bull Brittles), Cécile Breccia (Lt. Link Manion) and Garth Breytenbach (Pvt. Slug Skinner).


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