Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, or: The Star Trek of Christmas Movies

To continue the subgenre of, er, classic(?) film, and without further ado…Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.

The Film:

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

The Premise:

Martians kidnap Santa!  Because…their children need to enjoy childhood more?

The Uncondensed Version:

The Martians are facing a real but probably not instantly resolved problem—their children spend too much time watching TV and not enough time enjoying childhood.  These Earth TV programs are corrupting the youth, turning their minds to mush…you’ve heard it before.  This is in a society in which it’s considered totally appropriate to use sleep spray to send children to sleep (that’s a euphemism for chloroform, isn’t it?!?!?!).  Martians seem to be extremely open to the power of persuasion, so when they hear a news program suggesting Mars needs its own Santa, they decide to kidnap Santa.  Obviously.

Why spend time with your Martian children when you can just kidnap an elderly man to make toys for them instead?


Throwing a wrench in this ingenious plan are (1) logic and (2) Voldar.  Logical gaps come in the form of the Martians turning on their radar shields only AFTER being detected, as well as kidnapping 2 Earth children…so they won’t tell the authorities and so no one will suspect Martians kidnapped Santa Claus.  WHAT.

Voldar is definitely the main antagonist here and honestly a bit of a hero.  He tells the children to their faces their theories are stupid, and is against the whole concept of children having fun, playing, enjoying life, etc.

Exemplifying that the mustachioed character is always evil.

Although the children escape to warn Santa (even braving a fierce polar bear and, inexplicably, a robot Voldar tries to program to destroy them), it’s too late.  The Martians use their freeze rays to kidnap Santa and bring him back to Mars.  This, of course, begs the question of why the fuck you even need Santa when you have freeze rays.



Once aboard the ship, Santa comforts the children with a mix of dad jokes and rather sinister laughter.  What will happen next???  You know.  Believe me, you already know.

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

This one regularly makes worst movie lists…with good reason.  It’s like watching one of the cheesier episodes of Star Trek:  TOS (like that one where the costume designer wrapped a dog in a shaggy rug and called it an alien)–complete with horrible special effects, cheesy fight scenes, awful one-liners, a lead male putting odd emphasis on the word “sabotage,” and a simplistic message about morality that hits you over the head with a mallet.  Also like some of the worst Star Trek eps, this is bearable for only about half of its run time.  The first half is admittedly entertaining in an utterly cheesy, campy, and cringe-worthy kind of way.

It does get darker than I expected, as Voldar tries to throw Santa and the children out of the airlock.  Maybe this is just who I am, but I was totally rooting for the villain here.  The children are ANNOYING, and Santa’s blind faith in humanity is grating.  Was also hoping for some kind of horrible Santa vs. aliens fight scene.

Was my blog wife on board the UFO for this one, or was she tempted to throw it out of the airlock?  Find out here!


Book Reviews, books

Book Review: Speak by Louisa Hall


Louisa Hall

336 pages

Speak cover.PNG

Speak is a science-fiction novel featuring artificial intelligence, totalitarian responses to uncannily lifelike AI, and computer prodigies, but its focus (like all sci-fi that I can think of, frankly) is on humans and humanity.  Hall explores humanity by weaving several different storylines together.  I admit I’m a sucker for novels in which seemingly separate stories come together, and much of the force driving this novel forward comes from piecing together where the connections are.  Refreshingly, I found all of the stories compelling and never felt the urge to skip through any of the sections.

We follow the history of the human search for meaning through time, beginning with Mary, a young Puritan dreading the life she will have with a new husband in the New World.  Mary’s narration is possibly my favorite as it’s full of energy, intelligence, and overconfidence in her understanding of the world.

A close second is the fictionalized letters of Alan Turing, which reveal his brilliance and isolation.  Hall perfectly balances the tragic elements of his life with his energy and wit.

Hall smoothly transitions us into the sci-fi elements of the story, beginning with a scientist hoping to reconnect with his wife.  His wife, on the other hand, is much more interested in speaking with the AI he helped develop than saving their marriage.

We jump farther forward in time to hear from a scientist and inventor imprisoned for life for his role in creating extremely lifelike AI that served as companions for children, which have since been banned.  However, after this type of AI is banned, an entire generation is left with physical and emotional illnesses, unable to form meaningful connections with humans.

Like virtually every other work tackling AI, Speak considers what it means to be human if we can create machines that can replace the appearance, interaction, and emotional work that humans perform.  Does AI make us more or less human?  And can we consider AI itself human?

There is a certain amount of sadness to the stories told here, but this novel is more of an exploration than a tragedy.  All of the consequences the characters suffer, no matter how terrible, ultimately arise from curiosity and the need for understanding.  If anything the tragedy lies in the number of characters who inevitably make themselves unknowable and unknowing in their search for a connection.

I’d call this sci-fi with an emphasis on language and a haunting/hopeful tone.  For fans of Margaret Atwood and weirdly Colum McCann?  Beautiful prose, you guys.

The Rating:

5/5 Pink Panther Heads

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Feminist February II: Advantageous

Feminist February continues!  This week is Christa’s pick, it’s sci-fi, it’s about ageism, and it’s written/directed by and starring women.  Let’s dive in, shall we?

The Film:


Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Premise:

In the near-ish future, a middle-aged woman undergoes a dramatic procedure to keep her job and secure her daughter’s future.

The Uncondensed Version:

Gwen is a career woman, mother, and face of her company.  She has a lot going for her even in the somewhat disconcerting future she lives in.

Everyone has a little flying UFO-type aircraft to zip around the city.  Well…it occurred to me that in the future (as in the present), only rich people will be able to afford really cool shit like that.  Thus all of my enthusiasm for the future has been crushed.

On the bright side, waterfall skyscrapers are a thing we can look forward to in the future.

Gwen’s daughter, Jules, is having a hard time understanding the world they live in, esp. as most things have gone to shit.  Jules didn’t get in to the exclusive prep school she applied to, she may not have eggs by the time she’s 20, and she feels that humanity’s awareness of how bad things are has done nothing to alter the course of history (she has a point there).

They’re pretty cute.

Though Gwen tries to remain optimistic and instill a sense of hope in her daughter, things go from bad to worse when she is let go as the face of her company, which specializes in radical procedures to help women (and I mean, probably men too, but mostly women.  Fucking patriarchy) maintain a youthful appearance.  The latest procedure is experimental—it involves transferring one’s brain into a younger body.  Of course it does.  And guess who is too old to be the face of the company?

So Gwen is fired and immediately calls her…agent?  He seems to be a robot named Drake, which cracked me up every time.  At one point, Gwen asks “Drake, are you a human being?”  Valid question, Gwen.  Drake is really unhelpful and suggests Gwen donate eggs…which will earn her money in a few months.  Not going to help when Gwen needs to live and somehow afford a $10,000 down payment to reserve a spot at a fancy private school.

You used to call me on my Bluetooth…

Guess where this is going.  Guess.  Yeah, Gwen decides to be a guinea pig for the procedure in which her identity and memories are transferred to a new body.  She continues to reinforce to her daughter, who has some major preteen angst, that she is a beautiful, strong young lady.

On a side note, Ken Jeong is in this(?!?!??!?!?!).

Gwen and Jules spend Christmas together.  Jules draws quite a nice portrait of Gwen.  Gwen reminds her that the wisdom and kindness Jules has is the secret beauty everyone wants.  Cue the waterworks.

Shortly after, the time to undergo the procedure arrives.  The way this film builds to the inevitable conclusion is brilliantly done, but still feels jarring.  There is no other option for Gwen as the external (and internal) pressures build on her.  However, I kept trying to find ways around the ending as it’s not going to conclude happily for anyone, really.  As more is revealed about the procedure, this film becomes increasingly horrifying/sad/wrenching.

The Rating:

4/5 Pink Panther Heads

Chilling.  Make sure you have a cat to hug immediately following viewing.

Did Christa feel the need to hug a cat as well?  Find out here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

The Machine, a Film by Energy Beam Brontë*

*Stolen from an article on The Toast

Second week of Sci-Fi/Fantasy-a-Thon with Christa!

This week I picked The Machine.

True story:  I am having such a Monday that I was finished with this post by 4:00 PM EST but forgot to post until now.

The Film:

The Machine

Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Premise:

Mr. Rochester A scientist builds a self-aware cyborg in a cold war arms race. Moody staring ensues.

The Trailer:

The Uncondensed Version:

I’m warning you now that this post is largely me freaking out about Toby Stephens, but if you can’t appreciate the man who is the closest living embodiment of Mr. Rochester, you are not welcome on this blog (yes, you are. Mostly).

Soooooooooooooo at an unspecified time in the future there’s a cold war between the UK and China. Probably the US as well b/c we really don’t like to be left out of that kind of thing. Just as in the earlier cold war, the two chief weapons are fear, espionage, and cyborgs. Three. Our three chief weapons are fear, espionage, and cyborgs. Apparently whoever builds the most badass cyborg wins the war and everyone can go home.

Toby Stephens, god love him, is just way too committed to scientific research to live in a time of war. He’s helping develop a self-aware cyborg, but he doesn’t want it to be a robot Nazi superweapon. We get our first glimpse of Rochester Vincent working on Paul, one of his experiments. Paul wakes up to a gentle hand on his shoulder and Toby Stephens asking, “Hello, do you know your name?”

No, I don’t. Please remind me.

Paul is a man who was shot in the head and has gotten a cyborg brain implant. Rochester VINCENT is giving him cyborg awareness tests involving empathy when Paul gives him a hug…and a stab in the chest!


Okay, but damn…it’s unfair how good Toby Stephens looks even after being fake stabbed in the chest.
Okay, but damn…it’s unfair how good Toby Stephens looks even after being fake stabbed in the chest.

Like any good movie scientist, being stabbed just motivates him even MORE. Somewhat unethically, Vincent makes up a fake grant so he can recruit people with the most promising cyborgs. Basically everyone sucks except for blonde young American Ava. Weird that I don’t want him to hook up with blondie largely b/of blonde Blanche in the 2006 Jane Eyre?

Also Jarndyce from Bleak House is his boss; I think I need to drop everything and marathon Jane Eyre/Bleak House. If I started now I could be done by…10 am tomorrow morning.

Vincent doesn’t really care that much about cyborgs, honestly, but he thinks the technology can help his daughter with a rare genetic disorder. He and Ava make some progress until suddenly the Chinese assassinate her, which Jarndyce may have participated in.

So Vincent decides to make a robot version of Ava even though she didn’t want her face to be used in any of the cyborg inventions. IDK, I wouldn’t really have a problem with my face being used on assassin robots when I’m dead.

Welllllllllll, until they decide to fuck with her emotions and put a spider jar over her face. Also they have a dude in a clown mask approach her and she fucking kills him, DUH. For some reason Vincent is surprised/upset that she killed the fucker in a clown mask. SHE’S MORE HUMAN THAN ANY OF YOU. THIS IS LIKE BATTLESTAR GALACTICA ALL OVER AGAIN.


Also it’s becoming apparent that Ava is suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuper into Vincent and he does not reciprocate. It’s so very cringeworthy.

At this point, the plot takes a sinister turn as Jarndyce manipulates Ava and Vincent in order to create a perfect killing machine.

That’s all I will say because at some point between Toby Stephens scenes, I realized I was actually enjoying this one quite a bit. There were times when the plot could’ve been more fast-paced, and the action scenes were kind of terrible. Honestly, I thought this was just going to be another bad cyborg flick, but it was reasonably interesting and…thought-provoking even?

The Critique:

Important Toby Stephens Moments Ranked by Rochester-iness:

5.  After Ava goes exploring in the top-secret military base, Toby Stephens tells her not to get “lost” again: “There are a lot of secrets down here in the dark, and I don’t want you to get hurt.” This is practically verbatim what Rochester tells Jane EVERY TIME she has a fucking question.

4.  Any time he says the word “fuck.” I know Mr. Rochester never actually said the word fuck in Brontë’s final draft (those damn censors, man), but I suspect he would really understand and appreciate the value of yelling the word “fuck.”

3. When Ava the cyborg does a fucking naked dance in front of him and he’s just kind of like “eh.” It’s Bertha Mason all over again. YOU’RE KILLING HER WITH YOUR INDIFFERENCE.

2.  Vincent to Ava: “Some people can’t give up hope even though deep down they know it’s hopeless.” THAT IS ON THE ROCHESTER FAMILY FUCKING CREST, I SWEAR TO GOD. Along with “Any suspicious thud you hear is a drunk old woman, NOT a crazy wife secretly living in the attic. Unless you have written documentation.”

1.  Every time he looks moodily at a wall or out a window (in terms of screen time, probably at least 1/3 of this movie).


The Rating:

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink Panther 4/5 Pink Panther Heads

Robots + Mr. Rochester. I feel angels crafted this movie from my dreams.

See what Christa thinks here!