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KVIFF 2022: Sci-Fi ‘Rubikon’ Wonders if Algae in Space Can Save Us

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KVIFF 2022: Sci-Fi ‘Rubikon’ Wonders if Algae in Space Can Save Us

KVIFF 2022: Sci-Fi ‘Rubikon’ Wonders if Algae in Space Can Save Us

by Alex Billington
July 3, 2022

We’re in a fascinating era of modern science fiction where a majority of all science fiction movies right now are about climate change and/or ecological disaster. Rightfully so, because it’s an unquestionably important topic and something that all sci-fi filmmaker & storytellers are always thinking about. It’s also good material for sci-fi stories because looking out into the future means there will be something to deal with regarding humanity’s survival, whether it be developing ways to survive and fix the climate/environment, or how to deal with the aftermath/fall out, or how people will respond when the shit really hits the fan. Rubikon is another one of these sci-fi movies directly addressing climate change, with an intriguing original concept. What if three scientists on a space station witness an apocalyptic event on Earth, leaving them as the only humans left alive? What do they do next, how do they respond? Should they go down and try to help, or not?

Rubikon is an Austrian production, made by an Austrian filmmaker named Magdalena Lauritsch. She is making her feature debut, and co-wrote the script with Jessica Lind, though it’s entirely in English with a few other languages spoken by the crew. At first we’re introduced to the original crew working the station, while a new spaceship arrives bringing two replacements – who work for one of the mega-corporations that now run the planet (because this is an accurate prediction for what is to come). The rest pack up and head back down to Earth, leaving three remaining crew – Hannah Wagner played by Julia Franz Richter, who is the protagonist of this story; wealthy, unstable schmuck Gavin Abbott, played by George Blagden; and Dimitri played by Mark Ivanir, a Russian scientist responsible for developing & managing a special algae program on the space station. The hope is this special algae will consume all the toxins while restoring a healthy balance of oxygen to Earth’s atmosphere – if they can figure out how to engineer it correctly to work.

There have been many sci-fi films recently set on space stations, from Gravity to The Cloverfield Paradox, as well as this one recently Stowaway on Netflix (which is set on a space ship but close enough). Rubikon is most similar to Stowaway, focusing less on action and spectacle and CGI, more on the dialogue within the confines of a claustrophobic space station. Endless metallic hallways and rooms filled with screens. They’re constantly arguing and discussing what to do, how to handle the situation, and what’s going to happen next. As a sci-fi nerd, and as much as the trailer didn’t really grab me at first, this film does offer an intriguing concept: what if a toxic gas (with unexplainable origins) engulfed Earth within hours, leaving most humans dead. They can see this from above, but can’t reach anyone or do anything and don’t know how to proceed. Maybe the algae can help? Maybe not? Is it even a good idea to bring the algae down there or should they just save themselves? These are the kind of conversations they’re having, with plenty of fights & confusion.

My biggest problems with Rubikon are with the script itself. As much as I enjoy the concept and the setting and the implications, the writing for the characters is a bit sloppy. At times they will repeat statements or ask questions about something that was just resolved. It’s a bit strange… They’ll also skip over important discussions entirely, making me wonder why they never talked about that. Even though I am a fan of Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, many critics wrote about how much they hated the inept science characters in that one, and this film has similar issues. For the most part, it’s easy to look past the “would a scientist really do that or say that?” issues because these people aren’t exactly scientists, at least not in the conventional sense of what we expect from astronauts. One of them is a soldier, another is a corporate worker, and the last one is a research scientist who has been on this space station for more than a decade so his charm has certainly worn off. That said, it doesn’t excuse all of the boring “but what about this?!” lines that fill the second half.

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It’s a huge relief that thankfully the film ends in the best way possible. They don’t pull any cheap tricks or toss in some last minute gimmick, they don’t go for the “safe” ending or peaceful resolution. They go as far as they can with this concept of being stuck up there and, yes!, they make a choice that made me want to forget all of my previous criticisms and say thank goodness this is what they decided to do with the script. Phew. We need more sci-fi that boldly, accurately, and intelligently challenges us with reasons to wonder what is right or wrong and what should humans do. Without the happy-go-lucky Disney ending. Without worrying about if every audience member like that ending. And we need this kind of discussion to encourage us – as human beings still alive on this planet – to ask what we can really do to stop the impending climate disaster. Can some algae or some scientific experiment save us, or is it up to just a few humans to make the right choice? What even is the right choice…? Watch Rubikon to see what they decide and then talk about it.

Alex’s KVIFF 2022 Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Follow Alex on Twitter – @firstshowing / Or Letterboxd – @firstshowing

Find more posts: Karlovy Vary, Review, Sci-Fi

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

Hitting the three-quarter-century mark usually means a retirement home, a nursing facility, or if you’re lucky to be blessed with relatively good health and savings to match, living in a gated community in Arizona or Florida.

For Sylvester Stallone, however, it means something else entirely: starring in the first superhero-centered film of his decades-long career in the much-delayed Samaritan. Unfortunately for Stallone and the audience on the other side of the screen, the derivative, turgid, forgettable results won’t get mentioned in a career retrospective, let alone among the ever-expanding list of must-see entries in a genre already well past its peak.

For Stallone, however, it’s better late than never when it involves the superhero genre. Maybe in getting a taste of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) with his walk-on role in the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel several years ago, Stallone thought anything Marvel can do, I can do even better (or just as good in the nebulous definition of the word).

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The property Stallone and his team found for him, Samaritan, a little-known graphic novel released by a small, almost negligible, publisher, certainly takes advantage of Stallone’s brute-force physicality and his often underrated talent for near-monosyllabic brooding (e.g., the Rambo series), but too often gives him to little do or say as the lone super-powered survivor, the so-called “Samaritan” of the title, of a lifelong rivalry with his brother, “Nemesis.” Two brothers entered a fire-ravaged building and while both were presumed dead, one brother did survive (Stallone’s Joe Smith, a garbageman by day, an appliance repairman by night).

In the Granite City of screenwriter Bragi F. Schut (Escape Room, Season of the Witch), the United States, and presumably the rest of the world, teeters on economic and political collapse, with a recession spiraling into a depression, steady gigs difficult, if not impossible, to obtain, and the city’s neighborhoods rocked by crime and violence. No one’s safe, not even 13-year-old Sam (Javon Walker), Joe’s neighbor.

When he’s not dodging bullies connected to a gang, he’s falling under the undue influence of Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk), a low-rent gang leader with an outsized ego and the conviction that he and only he can take on Nemesis’s mantle and along with that mantle, a hammer “forged in hate,” to orchestrate a Bane-like plan to plunge the city into chaos and become a wealthy power-broker in the process.

Schut’s woefully underwritten script takes a clumsy, haphazard approach to world-building, relying on a two-minute animated sequence to open Samaritan while a naive, worshipful Sam narrates Samaritan and Nemesis’s supposedly tragic, Cain and Abel-inspired backstory. Schut and director Julius Avery (Overlord) clumsily attempt to contrast Sam’s childish belief in messiah-like, superheroic saviors stepping in to save humanity from itself and its own worst excesses, but following that path leads to authoritarianism and fascism (ideas better, more thoroughly explored in Watchmen and The Boys).

While Sam continues to think otherwise, Stallone’s superhero, 25 years past his last, fatal encounter with his presumably deceased brother, obviously believes superheroes are the problem and not the solution (a somewhat reasonable position), but as Samaritan tracks Joe and Sam’s friendship, Sam giving Joe the son he never had, Joe giving Sam the father he lost to street violence well before the film’s opening scene, it gets closer and closer to embracing, if not outright endorsing Sam’s power fantasies, right through a literally and figuratively explosive ending. Might, as always, wins regardless of how righteous or justified the underlying action.

It’s what superhero audiences want, apparently, and what Samaritan uncritically delivers via a woefully under-rendered finale involving not just unconvincing CGI fire effects, but a videogame cut-scene quality Stallone in a late-film flashback sequence that’s meant to be subversively revelatory, but will instead lead to unintentional laughter for anyone who’s managed to sit the entirety of Samaritan’s one-hour and 40-minute running time.

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Samaritan is now streaming worldwide on Prime Video.

Samaritan

Cast
  • Sylvester Stallone
  • Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton
  • Pilou Asbæk

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Matt Shakman Is In Talks To Direct ‘Fantastic Four’

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According to a new report, Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct the upcoming MCU project, Fantastic Four. Marvel Studios has been very hush-hush regarding Fantastic Four to the point where no official announcements have been made other than the film’s release date. No casting news or literally anything other than rumors has been released regarding the project. We know that Fantastic Four is slated for release on November 8th, 2024, and will be a part of Marvel’s Phase 6. There are also rumors that the cast of the new Fantastic Four will be announced at the D23 Expo on September 9th.

Fantastic Four is still over two years from release, and we assume we will hear more news about the project in the coming months. However, the idea of the Fantastic Four has already been introduced into the MCU. John Krasinski played Reed Richards aka Mr. Fantastic in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The cameo was a huge deal for fans who have been waiting a long time for the Fantastic Four to enter the MCU. When Disney acquired Twenty Century Fox in 2019 we assumed that the Fox Marvel characters would eventually make their way into the MCU. It’s been 3 years and we already have had an X-Men and Fantastic Four cameo – even if they were from another universe.

Deadline is reporting that Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct Fantastic Four. Shakman served as the director for Wandavision and has had an extensive career. He directed two episodes of Game of Thrones and an episode of The Boys, and he had a long stint on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. There is nothing official yet, but Deadline’s sources say that Shakman is currently in talks for the job and things are headed in the right direction.

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To be honest, I was a bit more excited when Jon Watts was set to direct. I’m sure Shakman is a good director, but Watts proved he could handle a tentpole superhero film with Spider-Man: Homecoming. Wandavision was good, but Watts’ style would have been perfect for Fantastic Four. The film is probably one of the most anticipated films in Marvel’s upcoming slate films and they need to find the best person they can to direct. Is that Matt Shakman? It could be, but whoever takes the job must realize that Marvel has a lot riding on this movie. The other Fantastic Four films were awful and fans deserve better. Hopefully, Marvel knocks it out of the park as they usually do. You can see for yourself when Fantastic Four hits theaters on November 8th, 2024.

Film Synopsis: One of Marvel’s most iconic families makes it to the big screen: the Fantastic Four.

Source: Deadline

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Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase Star in ‘Zombie Town’ Mystery Teen Romancer (Exclusive)

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Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase have entered Zombie Town, a mystery teen romancer based on author R.L. Stine’s book of the same name.

The indie, now shooting in Ontario, also stars Henry Czerny and co-teen leads Marlon Kazadi and Madi Monroe. The ensemble cast includes Scott Thompson and Bruce McCulloch of the Canadian comedy show Kids in the Hall.

Canadian animator Peter Lepeniotis will direct Zombie Town. Stine’s kid’s book sees a quiet town upended when 12-year-old Mike and his friend, Karen, see a horror movie called Zombie Town and unexpectedly see the title characters leap off the screen and chase them through the theater.

Zombie Town will premiere in U.S. theaters before streaming on Hulu and then ABC Australia in 2023.

“We are delighted to bring the pages of R.L. Stine’s Zombie Town to the screen and equally thrilled to be working with such an exceptional cast and crew on this production. A three-time Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award winner with book sales of over $500 million, R.L. Stine has a phenomenal track record of crafting stories that engage and entertain audiences,” John Gillespie, Trimuse Entertainment founder and executive producer, said in a statement.

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Executive producers are Trimuse Entertainment, Toonz Media Group, Lookout Entertainment, Viva Pictures and Sons of Anarchy actor Kim Coates.  

Paco Alvarez and Mark Holdom of Trimuse negotiated the deal to acquire the rights to Stine’s Zombie Town book.

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