Questions, questions: at best, think about and ask yourself science fiction films and then are so convincing that you forget you ever wanted an answer. This month’s selection will particularly reward viewers who are not patient with simple resolutions or different genre classifications.
Stream it on Netflix.
Taiwanese director Cheng Wei-Hao’s ambitious film will frustrate viewers who like their genres to be well defined. Set in the year 2032, it follows the efforts of Public Prosecutor Liang Wen-Chao (Chen Chang) to solve the gruesome death of a local business tycoon who was slaughtered by his estranged son – at least it looks like it. A huge question mark also hovers over the dead man’s second wife, Li Yan (Anke Sun, cold and unsettling).
Liang is particularly desperate to find out what happened because he has cancer and this could be his last case.
Nothing seems to be in the convoluted plot, and “The Soul” moves wildly from one red herring to another, from horror to procedural to science fiction to melodrama to thriller to romance and back again.
For the most part, Cheng manages to keep his various topics up in the air: It’s like watching someone juggle a knife, ball, pin, and glass, and only occasionally drop one. And under the “Oh no, they didn’t!” The film’s bittersweet worry is our inability to accept the inevitable and let go of things – or people.
Buy or rent it from Amazon Prime, Google Play, Vudu.
Some films come pre-installed with a long exhibition. Others give off information in a slow, steady drop. And then there are those who dare to put the audience in a state of confusion. “Doors” falls into that last category, and your response to it depends on your tolerance of unexplained events with a touch of metaphysics. If the last part of “2001: A Space Odyssey” drives you crazy, stay away from this anthology where millions of title objects appear overnight without a clue of their origins.
The best three parts of the film are the first and the last. In the introduction to “Lockdown”, director Jeff Desom conjures up a mini-horror film in which a group of children taking a test must find out what to do with a door that appears in a hallway. Saman Kesh’s meandering “knockers” take place after millions of people have disappeared through the doors and into … another reality?
Dugan O’Neal’s “Lamaj” is back on a solid footing when Jamal (Kyp Malone, of the band TV on the radio) watches a door deep in the woods. One day the door speaks to him – but not to explain what is happening. We still have to use our imagination for this.
Buy or rent it from Amazon Prime, Google Play, Vudu.
There is little science and even less fiction in this new Swedish film: it’s hard to believe that events could all too easily happen.
“The Unthinkable” clearly belongs to the pre-apocalyptic genre: Mysterious explosions paralyze Stockholm, the Swedish power grid collapses, no one can find out what is happening, and in no time the country falls completely apart. As is customary in survival stories, the film, which is attributed to the Crazy Pictures film collective, follows a small group of archetypes trying to survive the ordeal: a tormented man (Christoffer Nordenrot, who helped write the script) trying to make himself up to reconnect with his child treasure (Lisa Henni), who is desperately looking for her little daughter; a conspiracy theorist (Jesper Barkselius) who may or may not be right about what happens; a senior government official (Pia Halvorsen) trying to do the right thing.
The first third of the film feels like your run-of-the-mill family drama, with a retrospective look at traumatic childhood events. And then the machine revs up and you are too distracted by the impressive set pieces to worry about the somber explanations – an unnecessary coda during the credits feels like a funny excuse. And the biggest question remains unanswered: How the hell did Crazy Pictures do it on a $ 2 million budget?
Stream it on Hulu.
Try not to get caught up in the tangled plot – time travel paradoxes are hell for screenwriters. What matters in this Australian eco-dystopia is the human element. Specifically, Kodi Smit-McPhee’s appearance as Ethan, a humble worker sent to a time centuries ago that could be the key to salvation from 2067 when an oxygen-poor earth is in agony. Smit-McPhee, tall and slightly gaunt, with widely set eyes that give him a ghostly expression, resembles the one who was first noticed 12 years ago as a young boy in the adaptation of the post-apocalyptic novel “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy , not the he-men who are normally supposed to single-handedly save the world. But that’s exactly what makes it so attractive here.
Seth Larney’s movie doesn’t always make sense, and you’d like Ryan Kwanten and Deborah Mailman to be better used in key supporting roles. But Smit-McPhee is a strong anchor. That Ethan accepts the mission less to save humanity than to save a single person (his wife) makes terrible sense.
When a crisis hits the screen, characters often seem instantly to become survivors regardless of their job – remember, Tom Cruise was a simple dock worker in War of the Worlds.
But what if the people facing an alien invasion were pitifully incapable of a change? That’s the case in this very funny satire by Alex Huston Fischer and Eleanor Wilson. A couple of Brooklyn hipsters, Jack (John Reynolds, of “Search Party”) and Su (Sunita Mani, “GLOW”), spend a week off-grid in the backcountry when mysterious fur balls land from space. With no follow-up and no hands-on skills – the movie suggests part of the trust in smartphones is partly to blame – our two Earthwomen are sinking rather than facing the opportunity, and soon Su and Jack are screaming in front of the killer on the Escape “Pouffes” (whose resemblance to the tribbles of the old “Star Trek” cannot be accidental).
The film pokes fun at both science fiction conventions and pampered millennials, while beating many other comedies by miraculously not running out of gas halfway through.